Confirmation of the occurrence of a second killer whale morphotype in South African waters
AbstractKiller whales Orcinus orca occur worldwide in a number of morphotypes that differ in size, pigmentation, acoustic behaviour, food type and genetics – some may indeed warrant subspecific or even specific status. Until recently, all killer whales in South African waters were referred to a single morphotype, Type A, but three individuals (two males and one female) that have stranded since 1969 differ in several respects from other killer whales examined from the region. Adult length is some 1–1.5 m smaller, appendages such as dorsal fin and flippers tend to be relatively larger, and tooth wear is excessive. Although dietary information is scant, one stomach contained the remains of several elasmobranchs, identified from a DNA subsample as blue sharks Prionace glauca, a dietary item that, if habitual, might account for the tooth wear. This morphotype, referred to here as ‘flat-toothed’ and which in several respects resembles the offshore form in the North Pacific and the Type 1 form in the North Atlantic, does not seem to have been recorded previously from the Southern Hemisphere.
Keywords: blue shark, dentition, morphometrics, Orcinus orca, prey
African Journal of Marine Science 2014, 36(2): 215–224