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Acoustic Protocol

Draft Protocol for conducting a communication experiment between a captive killer whale and free ranging killer whales of the same natal community.

Prepared by Howard Garrett, Orca Network,
and Kenneth C. Balcomb, III, Center for Whale Research

This communication experiment is designed primarily to investigate behavioral context and responses of killer whales in captive and free-ranging populations to vocalizations which are produced and relayed in real-time between them. This will be an initial attempt to determine how and what these highly vocal animals might be saying to each other. It is a well established fact that killer whales (Orcinus orca) produce underwater calls (Ford, 1987; Moore, et. al, 1988), and that these calls can be used by researchers for differentiating populations, i.e., that distinct sets of calls are used by distinct populations. It is presumed that the calls have some meaning for the whales (Adler, 1996). Ford (1987) noted that there were variations in the vocal repertoires of specific matrilineal associations (pods) and termed them "dialects." He found that in killer whale pods of the Pacific Northwest of North America these dialects consist of a mean of 10.7 discrete calls/pod (range 7-17, n=16). In addition there is a wide range of "abberant calls" that occur during times of intense socializing. There are consistent and often striking differences in the call repertoires of different pods that are highly stable over time. The calls are presumably communicative, as distinguished from pulsed broadband vocalizations which are used for echolocation. Nobody knows what the killer whales within a particular dialect are saying to one another, or whether there is communication between pods with different dialects; but, with the availability of the captive killer whale known as "Lolita" performing daily at the Miami Seaquarium, from a known pod with a known dialect, there is a fascinating opportunity for scientific enquiry into their communications abilities.

Haida, a male killer whale that was captured from J or L pod of the Southern Resident community (Lolita's community) in October 1968 and held in Victoria, British Columbia in a netted area adjadent to the waters where he was captured, would respond vocally and excitedly to

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