Killer Whales as Predators of Large Baleen Whales and Sperm Whales


in Whales, Whaling, and Ocean Ecosystems

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2007 | ISBN: 9780520248847
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520933200 | DOI:
Killer Whales as Predators of Large Baleen Whales and Sperm Whales

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This chapter discusses killer whales as primary predators of large baleen and sperm whales. If attacks by killer whales on these large cetaceans were common, a set of outcomes might be expected. These would include a relatively high incidence of witnessed attacks, detection of maimed bodies of victims and escapees, and clear evidence of specific antipredator behavior. Since making field observations in underwater is complicated, this chapter relies on two less direct approaches. First, given existing knowledge of large or medium-sized land carnivores, it considers whether inferences about their current roles in shaping ecological and prey dynamics would remain valid if based exclusively on historical observations. Second, given the infrequency of witnessed predation by killer whales on large whales, it uses indirect assessments of predation events and the antipredator behavior of prey to infer how killer whales might influence the spatial and population responses of other cetaceans.

Keywords: cetaceans; antipredator behavior; prey dynamics; killer whales; predation

Chapter.  13180 words. 

Subjects: Aquatic Biology

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