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The diving behaviour of mammal-eating killer whales (Orcinus orca): variations with ecological not physiological factors

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DOI

Abstract

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 did l 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.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1103-1112
Number of pages10
JournalCanadian Journal of Zoology
Volume88
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010

    Research areas

  • PRINCE-WILLIAM-SOUND, MARINE MAMMALS, OXYGEN STORES, SPERM-WHALES, SPLITTING BEHAVIOR, FORAGING BEHAVIOR, HARBOR SEALS, ALASKA, PREDATION, FISH

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