June 24, 2024

Calls Produced by Ecotype C Killer Whales (Orcinus orca) Off the Eskström Iceshelf, Antarctica


Elena Schall and Ilse Van Opzeeland


Abstract: Killer whales (Orcinus orca) are highly social top predators distributed throughout the worldʼs oceans. They are divided into different ecotypes according to foraging specializations, phenotype, and social organization. For Northern Hemisphere killer whale ecotypes, acoustic behaviour has been shown to relate to foraging strategies and social organization. In contrast to the intensively studied Northern Hemisphere ecotypes, distribution patterns, social structures, and acoustic behaviour of the Southern Hemisphere killer whale ecotypes are poorly known. One of the Southern Hemisphere ecotypes, the Antarctic Ecotype C killer whale, is known to occur in regions with dense pack ice. The limited accessibility of these areas make passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) methods a very effective investigation tool to derive information on ecotype-specific abundance and distribution. During 2 d in February 2013, it was possible to collect concurrent visual and acoustic information of Ecotype C killer whales off the Antarctic continent. From these events, a call type catalogue was compiled. The 2,238 examined calls were subjectively classified into 26 discrete call types. Ten percent of the examined calls were re-classified by two additional independent observers to examine robustness of the classification. Mean classification accordance among observers was 68%. Most call types were composed of more than one call part. Sixty-five percent of all call types were monophonic, and 35% were biphonic. Almost two-third of all call types started with a short, broadband pulse. The variability within call types was relatively high. The Ecotype C vocal repertoire contained typical acoustic features such as biphonation, high call complexity, and generally high variability in frequency modulation. For future studies, the distinct characteristics of some of the call types described herein could potentially serve as acoustic markers for PAM-based differentiation of killer whale ecotypes in the Southern Ocean.
Key Words: killer whale, Orcinus orca, vocal behaviour, ecotype, passive acoustic monitoring, Antarctic, Southern Ocean
Document Type: Research Article
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1578/AM.43.2.2017.117
Page Numbers: 117-126

Info SKU: Vol__43__Iss__2__Schall Category: