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November Meeting: False Killer Whales in NT coastal waters

Wednesday Nov 13 7:01 pm

Duration: 1.5 Hours

The False Killer Whale (Pseudorca crassidens), is a tropical and warm temperate oceanic species that is broadly distributed, but naturally rare throughout its range. The FKW is one of the larger members of the dolphin family, Delphinidae, and despite its world-wide distribution throughout the tropics and sub-tropics, is one of the least known of the large tropical dolphins.

Most of what is known about FKWs comes from studies around the Hawaiian Archipelago. In Hawaiian waters three populations have been recognised - two coastal dwelling populations and an offshore population. All three populations are managed as separate population stocks by the US Marine Mammal Protection Act.

It is currently unknown whether FKWs in Australian waters comprise one broad population or distinct coastal and offshore populations. Australia's and the Southern Hemisphere's first ever satellite tagging of FKWs took place in 2014 and the satellite tracking movement patterns occurred within the Arafura and Timor Seas. The second tagging project occurred in 2018 around the Groote Archipelago where two individuals were tagged. The FKWs in Australian waters are truly Olympic swimmers like no other cetacean!! Total distance travelled by tagged individuals in 2014 was as much as 5,161 km (over a 54-day period).

The Northern Territory could be in an ideal position to contribute to the understanding of FKW coastal habitat requirements and stock structure and thus contribute to defining appropriate geographical scales for management of populations in Northern Territory and Commonwealth waters.

Dr Carol Palmer has been a biologist in the Northern Territory for the last 20 years. Through Charles Darwin University she completed a Graduate Diploma in Science through Research on Orange-footed Scrubfowl, a MSc through Research on Black Flying Foxes and a PhD on four species of dolphin in the NT (including the FKW). Carol is now an Adjunct at CDU.