Terra Azul crew gathered some amazing underwater footage of the killer whales (Orcinus orca) that recently visited the waters in front of Vila Franca do Campo. These imagery might help identify what ecotypes of Orcas visit Azorean waters. The back-sloping eye-patch of this individual could be indicative of Eastern North Atlantic Type 2.
Eastern North Atlantic Type 2 Orcas are known to prey especially on marine mammals such as Minke Whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) and other dolphin species. Differently, Orcas Type 1 feed almost exclusively on mackerel (Scomber scombrus) and herrings (Clupea harengus), as it has been often documented off the coasts of Scotland and Norway. This difference in their diets is also reflected by the shape of their teeth: Type 1 Orcas often have have teeth worn down to the gum line, probably because of the scales of their preys, while Type 2 Orcas have sharp teeth. Maybe the next time we can have a closer look!
In spite of their popularity as iconic cetacean species, little is known about the different types of Orcas existing in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. To date, scientists have individuated ten different ecotypes with different “cultures” for what concern feeding habits, geographical distribution and dialect. Yes, you read well, they even “speak” a different language!
Stay tuned, more info about Orca culture to come! 🙂