Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 803–814

Movement, site fidelity and connectivity in a top marine predator, the killer whale

  • Andrew D. Foote
  • Tiu Similä
  • Gísli A. Víkingsson
  • Peter T. Stevick
Original Paper


Movement, site fidelity and connectivity have important consequences for the evolution of population structure and therefore the conservation and management of a species. In this study photographs of naturally marked killer whales collected from sites across the Northeast Atlantic are used to estimate fidelity to sampling locations and movement between locations, expressed as transition probabilities, pt, using maximum likelihood methods. High transition probabilities suggest there is high inter-annual site fidelity to all locations, and large-scale movement between the spawning and wintering grounds of both Norwegian and Iceland stocks of Atlantic herring. There was no evidence of movement between the Norwegian herring grounds and Icelandic herring grounds, or between the mackerel fishing grounds and the herring fishing grounds. Thus the movement of predictable and abundant prey resources can lead to intrinsic isolation in this species We also find movement between the Northern Isles, Scotland and East Iceland. An association network indicates that killer whales predating seals around the Northern Isles, Scotland are linked to the community of killer whales that follow the Icelandic summer-spawning herring. This adds support to existing evidence of a broad niche width in some populations.


Population structure Spatial dynamics Orcinus orca Connectivity 

Supplementary material

10682_2009_9337_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (162 kb)
(PDF 163 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew D. Foote
    • 1
  • Tiu Similä
    • 2
  • Gísli A. Víkingsson
    • 3
  • Peter T. Stevick
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute of Biological and Environmental SciencesUniversity of AberdeenCromarty, Ross-shireUK
  2. 2.StraumsjøenNorway
  3. 3.Marine Research Institute, Program for Whale ResearchReykjavíkIceland
  4. 4.Hebridean Whale and Dolphin TrustTobermory, Isle of MullUK

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