Evidence of resident coastal populations of false killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens) in northern Australian waters

Carol Palmer, Karen Martien, Holly Raudino, Kelly Robertson, Alan Withers, Emma Withers, Robert Risk, Dylan Cooper, Ellen D'Cruz, Edmund Jungine, Daniel Barrow, Nick Cuff, Adrian Lane, Daniel Keynes, Kelly Waples, Allyson Malpartida, Sam Banks

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To help evaluate the distribution, residency, population size and structuring (and hence conservation status) of the poorly known false killer whale Pseudorca crassidens in northern Australian waters, we undertook studies of sightings, movement patterns based on satellite telemetry, and genetics. Sighting data indicates that false killer whales are regular, year-round inhabitants of coastal areas of northern Australia. Satellite-tagged animals spent extended periods of time in shallow coastal waters, with no tagged animals leaving the continental shelf. The lack of spatial overlap in the areas visited by individuals tagged in the Arafura/Timor Seas compared to those tagged in the Gulf of Carpentaria suggests that there may be more than one population in northern Australia coastal waters. All 14 genetic samples collected across 1600 km of coastline possessed the same newly identified mitochondrial control region haplotype, designated haplotype 45. Notably, haplotype 45 is distinct from all previously published false killer whale haplotypes globally and is most similar to the two haplotypes that typify the endangered main Hawaiian Islands insular false killer whale population. Based on these results and evidence from recent movement records of those tagged, false killer whales in northern Australia are apparently demographically independent from the offshore population(s). Further assessment of the population conservation status is now required.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1067660
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Marine Science
Early online date30 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2023


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