Killer whales in Hawaiian waters: information on population identity and feeding habits

Publications >> Killer whales in Hawaiian waters: information on population identity and feeding habits

Citation

Baird, R.W., D.J. McSweeney, C. Bane, J. Barlow, D.R. Salden, L.K. Antoine, R.G. LeDuc, and D.L. Webster. 2006. Killer whales in Hawaiian waters: information on population identity and feeding habits. Pacific Science 60:523-530.

Abstract

Killer whales (Orcinus orca) have only infrequently been reported from Hawaiian waters, and most of what is known about killer whales worldwide comes from studies in coastal temperate waters.  Here we present 21 records of killer whales from within the Hawaiian Exclusive Economic Zone between 1994 and 2004. Killer whales were recorded nine months of the year, most around the main Hawaiian Islands. Although there were more records than expected during the period when humpback whales are abundant around the Islands, there is likely an increase in sighting effort during that period. Killer whales were documented feeding on both a humpback whale and cephalopods, and two species of small cetaceans were observed fleeing from killer whales. Although it is possible that there are both marine mammal–eating and cephalopod-eating populations within Hawaiian waters, it seems more likely that Hawaiian killer whales may not exhibit foraging specializations as documented for coastal temperate populations. Saddle patch pigmentation patterns were generally fainter and narrower than those seen in killer whales from the temperate coastal North Pacific. Analysis of skin samples from two animals indicated two mitochondrial haplotypes, one identical to the ‘‘Gulf of Alaska transient 2’’ haplotype (a mammal-eating form), and the other a new haplotype one base different from haplotypes found for mammal-eating killer whales in coastal Alaskan waters.

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