falkland-orcas: A photo-identification study …


A photo-identification study started in 2013: researchers of Elephant Seal Research Group were interest in discovering the exact impact of orcas’ predations on local elephant seals community.

“Although elephant seal predation by killer whales is often reported by Sea Lion Island visitors, its real frequency is unknown, and the capability of killer whales to regulate the population dynamics of elephant seals is uncertain. The same holds for the other potential killer whale preys that breed on the island, including southern sea lions and various species of penguins.”

A total of 35-40 orcas were identified, most of them though were just seen once. The most frequently sighted individuals are divided into two different groups: a resident group (Lola’s pod) and a transient group (Puma’s pod) who are both made of adult females and their calves. In addition, adult males are often sighted alone or in pairs. Orcas are mainly spotted in summer months, when penguins and pinnipedes are breeding.

Credit to Elephant Seal Research Group on Facebook

This is a bit nit-picky, but the terms “resident” and “transient” are not applicable to killer whales outside of the North Pacific. Resident and transient are specific terms used to describe two of the three ecotypes that inhabit this region. In fact, residents and transients are considered to be two separate (though still unnamed) subspecies. They are genetically separated and have two different diets, with residents specializing in fish and transients specializing in other marine mammals. 

“Transient” and “resident” are often mistakingly used to describe killer whales that eat mammals and whales that eat fish. Sometimes they are incorrectly used to describe the residency and movement patterns of individual groups of whales (this harkens back to when these subspecies were first described––the names themselves can be a bit of a misnomer). 

No specific ecotype has been described for killer whales living in the Falkland Islands, but the closest would likely be Type A.