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article imageKiller whales identified as ‘two different species’

By Tim Sandle     Jul 18, 2013 in Environment
A new study of the DNA of killer whales has confirmed that there are at least two different species of orca swimming in the world’s oceans.
Following on from an earlier Digital Journal report about the different killer whale communities and their mating habits, comes an interesting finding about the ‘species’.
It was commonly thought that the orcas that freely roamed the cold waters of the northern Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea were a single species. However new scientific studies of the killer whales’ behavior and genetics suggest that there are in fact at least two species. These are divided between “resident” fish-eating orcas and “transient” mammal-eaters also known as Bigg’s killer whales.
The killer whale (Orcinus orca), also referred to as the orca whale or simply orca, and less commonly as the blackfish, is a toothed whale belonging to the oceanic dolphin family. Killer whales are found in all oceans, from the frigid Arctic and Antarctic regions to tropical seas.
The new conclusion about killer whale types is based on a trans-ocean study of 462 different killer whales. The findings have been published in the Journal of Heredity. The reference is:
K. M. Parsons et al. Geographic patterns of genetic differentiation among killer whales
in the northern north Pacific. Journal of Heredity.
The complexity of killer whales is also borne out by a recent news story which detailed the discovery of a new type of killer whale based on DNA analysis of the remains of a species washed up in Australia in 1955.
More about Orca, Killer whales, Species, Diversity, Community
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