Responses of Kamchatkan fish-eating killer whales to playbacks of conspecific calls

Authors


Abstract

Killer whales produce repertoires of stereotyped call types that are primarily transmitted vertically through social learning, leading to dialects between sympatric pods. The potential function of these call repertoires remains untested. In this study, we compared the reaction of Kamchatkan fish-eating killer whales to the playbacks of calls from the same and different pods. After the playback of recordings from a different pod, in three cases whales changed the direction of their movement toward the boat, and in three cases no changes in direction were observed. After the playback of recordings from the same pod (either from the same or a different unit within the pod), in seven cases whales changed the direction of their movement toward the boat, and in only one case no change in direction was observed. Whales remained silent after all six playbacks of recordings from a different pod, even when they changed direction toward the boat. After the playback of recordings from the same pod, however, in all eight cases whales started calling in response. Our playback study shows that killer whales may react to playbacks of conspecific sounds and that reactions are dependent on the type of playback stimuli.

Ancillary