A study in the journal Genome Research suggests there are several species of killer whale.

It has long been thought that there are at least three types of killer whales: residents who eat fish; transients who eat mammals; and offshores about who little is known. The new research gives the strongest evidence yet supporting the theory there are several species of killer whales throughout the world’s oceans.

One of the whales suggested as a new species is the “pack ice killer whale” from the Antarctic. This has a large eye-patch and two-tone gray color pattern. This type specialises in hunting seals, which are often on the ice and need to be knocked off the ice by the whales before they can be caught.

The “Ross Sea killer whale”, also, from the Antarctic is another considered a distinct species. This has a narrow angled eye patch. It is the smallest of 3 Antarctic types and eats fish that are found under the ice pack, following them deep into the ice as it breaks up in the summer months.

A third recommended for separate species listing is the Pacific Transient killer whale. This looks similar to an Antactic open water type with the typical black and white color pattern and eye-patch, but is genetically distinct. The Transients are known to feed on all types of marine mammals, including other whales, dolphins, and seals and sea lions.

Further Reading:
Killer Whales
Genomic Analysis Indicates Mulitples Species of Killer Whale
Complete mitochondrial genome phylogeographic analysis of killer whales (Orcinus orca) indicates multiple species


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