Sequential Habitat Use by Two Resident Killer Whale (Orcinus orca) Clans in Resurrection Bay, Alaska, as Determined by Remote Acoustic Monitoring

Abstract: Killer whales (Orcinus orca) are sighted regularly in coastal Alaska during the summer, but little is known about their movements through the area during the winter when weather and light limit the use of boat-based surveys. Acoustic monitoring provides a practical alternative because each extended resident killer whale family group or pod has a unique dialect that can be discerned by differences in their repertoires of stereotyped calls. The repertoires of resident killer whale pods in the northern Gulf of Alaska were updated from earlier studies, and the results used to determine the identity of pods that were recorded on remote hydrophones in Resurrection Bay, Alaska, in the fall, winter, and spring of 1999 to 2004. In total, seven pods of resident killer whales were identified acoustically, comprising four related pods from AB clan and three from AD clan. The frequencies of occurrence of the clans differed between the November to March recording period when AB clan occupied the area, and the April-May period when AD clan was predominant. The sequential use of this habitat during periods of relative prey scarcity has the effect of limiting intergroup resource competition and is consistent with earlier findings that demonstrated divergent resource specialization by sympatric killer whale populations.

Key Words: Killer whales, Orcinus orca, acoustic monitoring, behavior, habitat use, distribution, competition

Document Type: Research article

DOI: 10.1578/AM.36.1.2010.67

Page Numbers: 67-78

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