Killer whale behavior is highly influenced by its prey selection. By studying the foraging behavior of different populations, scientists can collect vital information that can help to protect them.
Scientists have very little information about the population or feeding patterns of killer whales (Orcinus orca) in Iceland. These animals play an important role in ecosystems – as top predators, they can change the populations of prey species, which in turn affects the rest of the food chain. These interactions are known as trophic cascades and have the potential to reshape the environment.
Killer whale populations can vary considerably in terms of their feeding strategies, and they adapt these behaviors based on which prey are available. Some populations, for example, feed primarily on herring, while others feed on multiple species, including marine mammals such as whales and dolphins. Prey selection influences killer whale behavior, such as the way they form social groups, interactions between different animals, and their communication systems. Furthermore, dependence on a particular prey species, whose populations may fluctuate throughout the years, can impact the survival of killer whale populations.
By recording observations of killer whales and collecting small samples of skin and blubber to assess their diets, it will not only be possible to understand the potential threats to this species, it will help scientists to protect them.