Rare research into false killer whales reveals anti-predator partnerships

October 3, 2013

False killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens) are one of the least studied species of ocean dolphin, but new light has been cast on their behavior by a team of marine scientists from New Zealand. The research, published in Marine Mammal Science, reveals how a population off the coast of New Zealand has developed a relationship with bottlenose dolphins to defend themselves from predation.

The 17-year study revealed that all 61 individuals in the area were linked in a single social network, while 88% of identified individuals were re-sighted in the same area over several years.

Groups of were also found to associate with (Tursiops truncates). These partnerships were found to span more than 5 years and up to 650 km.

"The anti-predatory function of mixed species associations is mostly achieved through a greater chance of detecting a predator through more eyes watching out," said Jochen R. Zaeschmar, from Massey University, New Zealand. "However, it is hard to say if this is mutualistic or parasitic, that is whether the two species actually co-operate or whether one just opportunistically exploits the detection ability of the other. Lastly, as both species are highly social, sociality may also play a role."

"Given the level of site fidelity documented, a small and possibly closed false killer whale population in New Zealand waters cannot be ruled out. A reassessment of the current conservation status in New Zealand may therefore be prudent and further research warranted into the dynamics of this population," concluded Zaeschmar.

Explore further: Scientists use DNA from a museum specimen to study rarely observed type of killer whale

More information: Jochen R. Zaeschmar, Sarah L. Dwyer, Karen A. Stockin, "Rare observations of false killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens) cooperatively feeding with common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand", Marine Mammal Science, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/mms.12065/abstract

Related Stories

World's rarest whale seen for the first time

November 5, 2012

A whale that is almost unknown to science has been seen for the first time after two individuals—a mother and her male calf—were stranded and died on a New Zealand beach. A report in the November 6th issue of Current ...

Endangered whale becoming a regular visitor to New Zealand

April 5, 2013

(Phys.org) —Scientists have shown that mainland New Zealand has become an increasingly important winter habitat for southern right whales – a population hunted to near extinction in the 19th century – and members of ...

Ninety whales stranded on New Zealand beach

January 23, 2012

A pod of 90 pilot whales have beached themselves at the top of New Zealand's South island, in the same area where seven whales died in a mass stranding earlier this month, according to officials.

Recommended for you

How single-celled organisms navigate to oxygen

December 2, 2016

A team of researchers has discovered that tiny clusters of single-celled organisms that inhabit the world's oceans and lakes, are capable of navigating their way to oxygen. Writing in e-Life scientists at the University ...

Mice can smell oxygen

December 2, 2016

The genome of mice harbours more than 1000 odorant receptor genes, which enable them to smell myriad odours in their surroundings. Researchers at the Max Planck Research Unit for Neurogenetics in Frankfurt, the University ...

Natural nomads, leatherback turtles opt to stay in place

December 2, 2016

Endangered leatherback sea turtles are known for their open-ocean migratory nature and nomadic foraging habits – traveling thousands of miles. But a Cornell naturalist and his colleagues have discovered an area along the ...

Neural stem cells serve as RNA highways too

December 1, 2016

Duke University scientists have caught the first glimpse of molecules shuttling along a sort of highway running the length of neural stem cells, which are crucial to the development of new neurons.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.