Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE

A preliminary study of the movement patterns of false killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens) in coastal and pelagic waters of the Northern Territory, Australia

Carol Palmer A B F , Robin W. Baird C , Daniel L. Webster C , Andrew C. Edwards D , Ruth Patterson A , Alan Withers E , Emma Withers E , Rachel Groom A and John C. Z. Woinarski B

A Marine Ecosystems, Department of Land Resource Management, PO Box 496, Palmerston, NT 0831, Australia.

B Threatened Species Recovery Hub of the National Environmental Science Program, Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University, NT 0909, Australia.

C Cascadia Research Collective, 218 ½ W 4th Avenue, Olympia, WA 98501, USA.

D Darwin Centre for Bushfire Research, Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University, NT 0909, Australia.

E Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory, PO Box 496, Palmerston, NT 0831, Australia.

F Corresponding author. Email: caroll.palmer@nt.gov.au

Marine and Freshwater Research - http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF16296
Submitted: 11 February 2016  Accepted: 25 October 2016   Published online: 3 February 2017

Abstract

The false killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens) is regarded as Data Deficient globally and in Australia. In most parts of its range, there is little information on its social behaviour, dispersal or ecology. The present study is the first assessment of its movement patterns in Australian waters, on the basis of satellite tracking of four individuals, in the Arafura and Timor Seas from late March to early July 2014. When initially tagged, the four individuals occurred in a single group; they then showed generally similar movement patterns and regularly re-associated. Total distance travelled by tagged individuals ranged from 5161 km (over a 54-day period) to 7577 km (104 days). Distance from land varied from 100 m to 188 km (median distance 24 km). Individual minimum convex polygons covered an area of 72 368 to 86 252 km2, with a total overlap of 64 038 km2. Water depths varied from 0.3 to 118 m (median 36 m). In total, 15% of records were in waters shallower than 10 m, and 26% of records were within 10 km of land. The present study indicated that false killer whales appear to regularly use coastal and pelagic waters in this region and, hence, should be afforded more conservation attention.

Additional keywords: Arafura and Timor Sea, dispersal, satellite tracking.


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