Kinematic signatures of prey capture from archival tags reveal sex differences in killer whale foraging activity

Jennifer B. Tennessen, Marla M. Holt, M. Bradley Hanson, Candice K. Emmons, Deborah A. Giles, Jeffrey T. Hogan
2019 Journal of Experimental Biology  
Studies of odontocete foraging ecology have been limited by the challenges of observing prey capture events and outcomes underwater. We sought to determine whether subsurface movement behavior recorded from archival tags could accurately identify foraging events by fish-eating killer whales. We used multisensor bio-logging tags attached by suction cups to Southern Resident killer whales (Orcinus orca) to: (1) identify a stereotyped movement signature that co-occurred with visually confirmed
more » ... ually confirmed prey capture dives; (2) construct a prey capture dive detector and validate it against acoustically confirmed prey capture dives; and (3) demonstrate the utility of the detector by testing hypotheses about foraging ecology. Predation events were significantly predicted by peaks in the rate of change of acceleration ('jerk peak'), roll angle and heading variance. Detection of prey capture dives by movement signatures enabled substantially more dives to be included in subsequent analyses compared with previous surface or acoustic detection methods. Males made significantly more prey capture dives than females and more dives to the depth of their preferred prey, Chinook salmon. Additionally, only half of the tag deployments on females (5 out of 10) included a prey capture dive, whereas all tag deployments on males exhibited at least one prey capture dive (12 out of 12). This dual approach of kinematic detection of prey capture coupled with hypothesis testing can be applied across odontocetes and other marine predators to investigate the impacts of social, environmental and anthropogenic factors on foraging ecology.
doi:10.1242/jeb.191874 pmid:30718292 fatcat:uqqxep525bb3ley2tddf3don24