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Samarra F.I.P.,University of St. Andrews | Deecke V.B.,University of St. Andrews | Deecke V.B.,Cetacean Research Laboratory | Vinding K.,Zoovisions | And 3 more authors.
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America | Year: 2010

This study reports that killer whales, the largest dolphin, produce whistles with the highest fundamental frequencies ever reported in a delphinid. Using wide-band acoustic sampling from both animal-attached (Dtag) and remotely deployed hydrophone arrays, ultrasonic whistles were detected in three Northeast Atlantic populations but not in two Northeast Pacific populations. These results are inconsistent with analyses suggesting a correlation of maximum frequency of whistles with body size in delphinids, indicate substantial intraspecific variation in whistle production in killer whales, and highlight the importance of appropriate acoustic sampling techniques when conducting comparative analyses of sound repertoires. © 2010 Acoustical Society of America.

Miller P.J.O.,Andrews University | Shapiro A.D.,Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution | Deecke V.B.,Andrews University | Deecke V.B.,University of British Columbia | Deecke V.B.,Cetacean Research Laboratory
Canadian Journal of Zoology | Year: 2010

Mammal-eating killer whales (Orcinus orca (L., 1758)) are a rare example of social predators that hunt together in groups of sexually dimorphic adults and juveniles with diverse physiological diving capacities. Day-night ecological differences should also affect diving as their prey show diel variation in activity and mammal-eating killer whales do not rely on echolocation for prey detection. Our objective was to explore the extent to which physiological aerobic capacities versus ecological factors shape the diving behaviour of this breath-hold diver. We used suction-cup-attached depth recorders (Dtags) to record 7608 dives of 11 animals in southeast Alaska. Analysis of dive sequences revealed a strong bout structure in both dive depth and duration. Day-night comparisons revealed reduced rates of deep dives, longer shallow dives, and shallower long-duration dives at night. In contrast, dive variables did not differ by age-sex class. Estimates of the aerobic dive limit (cADL) suggest that juveniles exceeded their cADL during as much as 15% of long dives, whereas adult males and females never exceeded their cADL. Mammal-eating killer whales in this area appear to employ a strategy of physiological compromise, with smaller group members diving nearer their physiological limits and large-bodied males scaling down their physiological performance.

Riesch R.,North Carolina State University | Barrett-Lennard L.G.,Cetacean Research Laboratory | Ellis G.M.,Cetacean Research Program | Ford J.K.B.,Cetacean Research Program | And 2 more authors.
Biological Journal of the Linnean Society | Year: 2012

Human evolution has clearly been shaped by gene-culture interactions, and there is growing evidence that similar processes also act on populations of non-human animals. Recent theoretical studies have shown that culture can be an important evolutionary mechanism because of the ability of cultural traits to spread rapidly both vertically, obliquely, and horizontally, resulting in decreased within-group variance and increased between-group variance. Here, we collate the extensive literature on population divergence in killer whales (Orcinus orca), and argue that they are undergoing ecological speciation as a result of dietary specializations. Although we cannot exclude the possibility that cultural divergence pre-dates ecological divergence, we propose that cultural differences in the form of learned behaviours between ecologically divergent killer whale populations have resulted in sufficient reproductive isolation even in sympatry to lead to incipient speciation. © 2012 The Linnean Society of London.

Deecke V.B.,University of St. Andrews | Deecke V.B.,Cetacean Research Laboratory | Deecke V.B.,University of British Columbia | Barrett-Lennard L.G.,Cetacean Research Laboratory | And 4 more authors.
Naturwissenschaften | Year: 2010

A few species of mammals produce groupspecific vocalisations that are passed on by learning, but the function of learned vocal variation remains poorly understood. Resident killer whales live in stable matrilineal groups with repertoires of seven to 17 stereotyped call types. Some types are shared among matrilines, but their structure typically shows matriline-specific differences. Our objective was to analyse calls of nine killer whale matrilines in British Columbia to test whether call similarity primarily reflects social or genetic relationships. Recordings were made in 1985-1995 in the presence of focal matrilines that were either alone or with groups with non-overlapping repertoires. We used neural network discrimination performance to measure the similarity of call types produced by different matrilines and determined matriline association rates from 757 encounters with one or more focal matrilines. Relatedness was measured by comparing variation at 11 microsatellite loci for the oldest female in each group. Call similarity was positively correlated with association rates for two of the three call types analysed. Similarity of the N4 call type was also correlated with matriarch relatedness. No relationship between relatedness and association frequency was detected. These results show that call structure reflects relatedness and social affiliation, but not because related groups spend more time together. Instead, call structure appears to play a role in kin recognition and shapes the association behaviour of killer whale groups. Our results therefore support the hypothesis that increasing social complexity plays a role in the evolution of learned vocalisations in some mammalian species. © Springer-Verlag 2010.

Kuker K.,Cetacean Research Laboratory | Kuker K.,University of British Columbia | Barrett-Lennard L.,Cetacean Research Laboratory | Barrett-Lennard L.,University of British Columbia
Mammal Review | Year: 2010

During the past 15-20 years, sea otters Enhydra lutris in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska, USA, experienced a drastic decrease in population size. It has been hypothesized that an increase in killer whale Orcinus orca predation was the primary cause of this decline. Causation of the decline by increased killer whale predation is now considered a textbook case of top-down predator control. The purpose of this review is to re-evaluate the evidence for killer whale predation and to review evidence for alternative causes. The killer whale predation hypothesis is based on three lines of evidence: (i) there was an increase in the number of observed killer whale attacks on sea otters during the 1990s, coincident with a decline in sea otters, (ii) sea otter populations did not decline in areas considered inaccessible to killer whales, while they declined in adjacent areas considered accessible to killer whales, and (iii) the estimated number of attacks necessary to account for the rate of decline is similar to the observed number of attacks. Our re-evaluation indicates that although the killer whale hypothesis is by no means disproved, the supporting data are limited and inconclusive. Increases in shark populations in the Aleutian Islands concurrent with the sea otter population declines indicate the need for further research into the role of alternative marine predators in the population decline. High contaminant levels observed in sea otters in the Aleutian Islands warrant further investigation into the impact of these toxins on sea otter health and vital rates, and their possible role on the population decline. Disease has not been ruled out as a significant contributor to the population decline, particularly in the early stages of the decline. © 2010 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2010 Mammal Society.

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