Abstract

Abstract:

Killer whales (Orcinus orca) are widely distributed in all ocean basins, however, their occurrence, distribution, and ecology in the southeast Pacific, including Peru, is poorly defined. This study aims to describe the occurrence of killer whales in Peruvian waters, with additional description of predatory behaviors. Between 2003 and 2018 there were 29 reports of killer whales in Peruvian waters in which at least 110 individuals were observed, with pod sizes ranging between 1 and 15 individuals. Most sightings occurred in waters within the continental shelf or in close proximity to the shelf break. During eight of the sightings, killer whales displayed predatory behavior towards other marine mammals, including cetaceans (Megaptera novaeangliae and Balaenoptera musculus) and pinnipeds (Otaria flavescens and Arctocephalus australis). In addition, we present the first photo-analysis of the incidence of killer whale tooth rake marks on humpback whale flukes off northern Peru. Between 2009 and 2017, 897 unique individual humpback whales were photo-identified off northern Peru, of which 19.6% (n = 172) displayed rake marks in their flukes, suggesting that humpback whales in the southeast Pacific are exposed to the attack of killer whales. Our findings suggest that the occurrence of killer whales in Peruvian waters are more common than previously documented and that killer whales are preying marine mammals in this region. Further understanding killer whale distribution, foraging habitats, and movement patterns within Peruvian waters will be essential in promoting their conservation.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-6188
Print ISSN
0030-8870
Pages
pp. 261-273
Launched on MUSE
2019-04-24
Open Access
No
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