Prey selection of offshore killer whales Orcinus orca in the Northeast Atlantic in late summer: spatial associations with mackerel

L. Nøttestad, L.D. Sivle, B.A. Krafft, L. Langård, V. Anthonypillai, M. Bernasconi, H. Langøy, A. Fernö

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18 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

The traditional perception of prey species preference of killer whales Orcinus orca L. in the Northeast Atlantic has, to a large extent, been linked to herring Clupea harengus L. Few studies have investigated the feeding ecology of killer whales from the offshore parts of this ecosystem. We conducted 2 summer-season ecosystem-based surveys in the Norwegian Sea, when it is most crucial for these animals to build up their energy reserves, using observational, acoustic, oceanographic, plankton net, and pelagic trawl haul data to quantify any spatial overlap between killer whales and the 3 most common and abundant pelagic fish species: herring, mackerel Scomber scombrus L., and blue whiting Micromesistius poutassou R. No spatial relationships were found between killer whales and herring or blue whiting. However, there was a significant relationship and spatial overlap between killer whales and mackerel. Feeding on this epipelagic schooling fish species during summer may incur lower migration costs and higher energetic gain than feeding on alternative prey. Killer whale group size was also correlated to the size of mackerel trawl catches, indicating active group size adjustment to available prey concentrations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-283
Number of pages9
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
Volume499
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2014

Keywords

  • Feeding ecology
  • Spatial overlap
  • Northeast Atlantic mackerel
  • Norwegian spring-spawning herring

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