All about orcas

By Adam Spencer, The Triplicate April 26, 2013 05:40 pm

A free Friday night show focuses on killer whales, which have been frequent visitors of late

A free presentation Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. at College of the Redwoods will provide a crash-course on current research on killer whales with a focus on several recent encounters between North Coast scientists and satellite-tracked orcas. 

The talk, titled “Killer ‘Sea Pandas’ of Del Norte: Their Diets, Dialects and Cultural Evolution,” will be given by Arcata-based biologist Jeff Jacobsen and is sponsored by Friends of Del Norte.

It will be held in Room 34.

Earlier this year, Jacobsen was able to locate a group of satellite-tracked, frequently studied orcas, called the K pod, twice off the coast of Crescent City and once each out of Eureka and Coos Bay.

Close-up photos of the Crescent City whale encounters, including shots of orcas with St. George Reef Lighthouse or the high Siskiyou Mountains in the background, will be shown during the presentation.

Jacobsen will also play audio recordings he took during the North Coast meeting with K pod, which is typically found and studied while gorging on salmon in Puget Sound.

This year’s satellite-tracking-supported research of K pod off the North Coast provided unprecedented data into where the group of orcas goes in the winter. It turns out they gorge on salmon from Puget Sound all the way to California’s Monterey Bay.

“We’ll be putting the local events into a global context,” Jacobsen said.

K pod is a near-shore, salmon-eating type of orca, one of three distinct kinds of killer whales found in the Pacific Ocean from the West Coast to Russia, Jacobsen said. 

Different groups of killer whales are distinguished by what they eat, where they spend time, and their dialect.

Another type of orca stays farther offshore and eats salmon and sharks, while the third Pacific-based group is the most transient, feasting on marine mammals like sea lions, and is quieter since its prey have good hearing and scatter at the sound of orcas, Jacobsen said.

Jacobsen will also touch on the seven other types of orcas that are found beyond the Pacific Ocean.

“So much of this has only been learned in the last decade or two,” he said.

The killer whale photographs were taken by Hiouchi-based biologist and photographer Darell Warnock, and some images will be available for sale in poster form. 

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