February 20, 2014

Transient Killer Whales: How They Were Able To Thrive This Long

Transient killer whales are well-known for their resilience and will to survive. This is because they can thrive in places where other whales can't. The only time wherein the survival of a particular group of transient killer whales was threatened was during the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez oil spill back in the late 80's. By 2009, marine scientists estimated that the number of transient killer whales within the areas of Prince William Sound and Alaska's Kenai Fjord's has been reduced to less than a dozen. This was due to the fact that the whales weren't able to reproduce because of the effects of the oil spill. However, this was but an isolated event. In most areas where these killer whales live, they continue to thrive and reproduce.

Among the reasons why transient killer whales are thriving is the fact that they have consistent adaptive skills. They can adapt to changes in the environment whether these changes involve a shuffle in the food chain or jumps in temperature. The truth is killer whales can live within extreme environments from the frigid Arctic and Antarctic regions to the warm waters of tropical seas. Physically, transient killer whales have the body size and appetite that put them atop the marine food chain. That said, they don't have any predators except humans.

When it comes to prey and diet, transient killer whales have plenty of these in the areas where they live. Unlike resident killer whales who eat mostly fishes like salmon, transients prefer a more ambitious diet. This diet consists mostly of marine mammals like seals, dolphins, sea lions, and calves or juveniles of other whales such as humpback whales and grey whales. Transients are the only types of killer whales who attack and eat other whales. Killer whales are also known for hunting and eating sharks.
Photo: Flickr/Milan Boers
Transient killer whales have very little competition with regards to their source of food. As was mentioned earlier, in the marine food chain, they are the ones occupying the top spot. Everyone under them is considered food so it's rather unlikely that they will run out of it. They also have perfected a hunting technique that enables them to catch their prey by surprise. Unlike other types of killer whales, transients hunt in much smaller groups and they stalk their prey in utter silence. Their hunting strategy is cooperative in nature meaning every whale in a group has to contribute in the stalking and killing of a potential prey. This strategy has often been compared to the way wolf packs hunt for their food.

Whether they are traveling or hunting as a group, transient killer whales don't usually communicate with each other unlike other types of killer whales. They rarely utilize vocalization or echolocation. Instead, they silently and passively locate unsuspecting prey. They only vocalize during or after a successful kill.

Most transient killer whale populations around the world are currently thriving well. Since there's little threat to their existence and there's the fact that their sources of food are plentiful, they are expected to survive as long as these factors mentioned aren't compromised. And of course, they have great adaptive skills which have been a huge help to them so far.

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