April 23, 2010
A recent paper, led by authors from the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, indicates that there are multiple species of killer whale. The paper "Complete mitochondrial genome phylogeographic analysis of killer whales (Orcinus orca) indicates multiple species" describes sympatric ‘ecotypes’ with discrete prey preferences, morphology and behaviors. Although these ecotypes avoid social interactions and are not known to interbreed, genetic studies to date have found extremely low levels of diversity in the mitochondrial control region, and few clear phylogeographic patterns worldwide.
Read more about the Marine Mammal Genetics Group's killer whale research: Taxonomic status of Antarctic killer whales.
Read more about new killer whale species at Science News.