Pilot and False-Killer Whales

Molecular genetic techniques are proving to be an invaluable tool for learning more about cetaceans. All cetaceans are difficult to study and analyses of molecular genetic markers provide insight about a species movement patterns and social structure. And this insight is particularly valuable for our studies of false killer whales and short-finned pilot whales, because, in general, there is little known about these species.

False Killer Whale, photo by Robin BairdPilot whale and calf

The false killer whale and short-finned pilot whale are two of the cetacean species that have been observed taken by the longline fishery that operates in the central Pacific, and using our best available data, the false killer whale has been identified as a 'strategic' stock (Nitta and Henderson, 1993; Carretta et al., 2004). Both species are largely pelagic in distribution and are found in tropical and temperate waters of all ocean basins. We have been using the mitochondrial

DNA control region sequences to examine population structure. Our preliminary results show that for both species, the animals sampled around the Hawaiian Islands are separate, reproductively isolated populations and have likely been isolated from animals living in the eastern tropical Pacific for a long time. The data for short-finned pilot whales also suggest additional structure within the eastern tropical Pacific, and that neither species has a strictly matrilineal pod structure.

Selected Publications

Nitta, E. and J. R. Henderson. 1993. A review of interactions between Hawaii ’s fisheries and protected species. Marine Fisheries Review 55:83-92.

Carretta, J., K. Forney, M. Muto, J. Barlow, J. Baker, B. Hanson, and M. Lowry. 2004. US Marine Mammal Stock Assessments: 2004. NOAA-TM-NMFS-SWFSC-375.  323pp.


Last modified: 12/24/2014