Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Killer whales in Antarctic waters prefer weddell seals over other prey

Date:
March 30, 2011
Source:
NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service
Summary:
Scientists studying the cooperative hunting behavior of killer whales in Antarctic waters observed the animals favoring one type of seal over all other available food sources, according to a new study.

A killer whale "spy-hops" to identify a Weddell seal resting on an ice floe off the western Antarctic Peninsula. The whale will notify other killer whales in the area so they can coordinate a wave to wash the seal off the floe.
Credit: Robert Pitman/NOAA

NOAA's Fisheries Service scientists studying the cooperative hunting behavior of killer whales in Antarctic waters observed the animals favoring one type of seal over all other available food sources, according to a study published in the journal Marine Mammal Science.

Related Articles


Researchers Robert Pitman and John Durban from NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, Calif., observed killer whales hunting in ice floes, off the western Antarctic Peninsula during January of 2009. While documenting the whales' behavior of deliberately creating waves to wash seals off ice floes, the researchers noticed Weddell seals as their primary target, despite the availability of other prey species, particularly the more abundant crabeater seals.

"These killer whales would identify and then attack Weddell seals almost exclusively, even though they made up only about 15 percent of the available seal population," said Pitman.

Killer whales creating waves to wash seals off ice floes in Antarctica had previously been observed only a handful of times. The whales, sometimes as many as seven abreast, charge the ice floe creating a wave that either washes the seal off the ice or breaks the ice into smaller pieces and more vulnerable to another attack. A previous study involving the authors suggested that this very distinctive killer whale population, which they refer to as "pack ice killer whales," is a separate species.

Once the seal was washed off the ice, the killer whales worked as a group to keep it away from hauling onto the safety of another ice floe. The whales seemed to try and confuse the seal by causing turbulence in the water with their flukes and blowing bubbles under the water through their blowholes.

Away from the ice, the whales attempt to tire and eventually drown the animal by pulling it under water by its hind flippers. Eventually the seal succumbs to exhaustion and is usually divided up among the pod members underwater. In most cases, little of the seal's remains float to the surface, but in one instance the carcass rose to the surface and appeared to have been methodically skinned and dismembered before being eaten.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service. "Killer whales in Antarctic waters prefer weddell seals over other prey." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110330150852.htm>.
NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service. (2011, March 30). Killer whales in Antarctic waters prefer weddell seals over other prey. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110330150852.htm
NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service. "Killer whales in Antarctic waters prefer weddell seals over other prey." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110330150852.htm (accessed November 26, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) The US FDA is announcing new calorie rules on Tuesday that will require everywhere from theaters to vending machines to include calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Feast Your Eyes: Lamb Chop Sent Into Space from UK

Feast Your Eyes: Lamb Chop Sent Into Space from UK

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 25, 2014) Take a stab at this -- stunt video shows a lamb chop's journey from an east London restaurant over 30 kilometers into space. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cambodian Capital's Only Working Elephant to Retire in Jungle

Cambodian Capital's Only Working Elephant to Retire in Jungle

AFP (Nov. 25, 2014) Phnom Penh's only working elephant was blessed by a crowd of chanting Buddhist monks Tuesday as she prepared for a life of comfortable jungle retirement after three decades of giving rides to tourists. Duration: 00:36 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stray Dog Follows Adventure Racing Team for 6-Day Endurance Race

Stray Dog Follows Adventure Racing Team for 6-Day Endurance Race

Buzz60 (Nov. 24, 2014) A Swedish Adventure racing team travels to try and win a world title, but comes home with something way better: a stray dog that joined the team for much of the grueling 430-mile race. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins