Divergence of a stereotyped call in northern resident killer whales

Dawn M. Grebner, Susan E. Parks, David L. Bradley, Jennifer L. Miksis-Olds, Dean E. Capone, John K.B. Ford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Northern resident killer whale pods (Orcinus orca) have distinctive stereotyped pulsed call repertoires that can be used to distinguish groups acoustically. Repertoires are generally stable, with the same call types comprising the repertoire of a given pod over a period of years to decades. Previous studies have shown that some discrete pulsed calls can be subdivided into variants or subtypes. This study suggests that new stereotyped calls may result from the gradual modification of existing call types through subtypes. Vocalizations of individuals and small groups of killer whales were collected using a bottom-mounted hydrophone array in Johnstone Strait, British Columbia in 2006 and 2007. Discriminant analysis of slope variations of a predominant call type, N4, revealed the presence of four distinct call subtypes. Similar to previous studies, there was a divergence of the N4 call between members of different matrilines of the same pod. However, this study reveals that individual killer whales produced multiple subtypes of the N4 call, indicating that divergence in the N4 call is not the result of individual differences, but rather may indicate the gradual evolution of a new stereotyped call.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1067-1072
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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