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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 499:275-283 (2014)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10638

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

Leif Nøttestad1,*, Lise Doksæter Sivle1, Bjørn A. Krafft1, Lise Langård1,2, Valantine Anthonypillai1, Matteo Bernasconi1,3, Herdis Langøy1, Anders Fernö1,2

1Institute of Marine Research, PO Box 1870 Nordnes, 5817 Bergen, Norway
2Department of Biology, University of Bergen, PO Box 7800, 5020 Bergen, Norway
3Pelagic Ecology Research Group, Scottish Oceans Institute, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife KY16 8LB, UK
*Corresponding author:

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.


KEY WORDS: Feeding ecology · Spatial overlap · Northeast Atlantic mackerel · Norwegian spring-spawning herring


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Cite this article as: Nøttestad L, Sivle LD, Krafft BA, Langård L and others (2014) Prey selection of offshore killer whales Orcinus orca in the Northeast Atlantic in late summer: spatial associations with mackerel. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 499:275-283. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10638

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