Parallel influence of climate on the behaviour of Pacific killer whales and Atlantic bottlenose dolphins

D. Lusseau, B. Wilson, K. Grellier, T.R. Barton, P.M. Thompson, R. Williams, P.S. Hammond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Citations (Scopus)


The grouping behaviour of animals is governed by intrinsic and extrinsic factors which play an important role in shaping their social organization. We investigated the influence of ocean climate variation on the grouping behaviour of two widely separated populations of cetaceans, inhabiting north Atlantic and north Pacific coastal waters. The group size of both bottlenose dolphins in the Moray Firth, UK, and killer whales in Johnstone Strait, Canada, varied from year to year in relation to large-scale ocean climate variation. Local indices of prey abundance were also related both to climate indices and predator group sizes. The cetaceans tended to live in smaller groups when there was less salmon available in both areas which seem to occur 2 years after a lower phase of the North Atlantic and Pacific Decadal Oscillations. These findings suggest that, even in highly social mammals, climate variation may influence social organization through changes in prey availability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1068-1076
Number of pages9
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2004


  • bottlenose dolphin
  • climate influence
  • grouping pattern
  • killer whale
  • mean-field model
  • North Atlantic Oscillation
  • Pacific Decadal Oscillation
  • salmon
  • Orcinus-orca
  • Tursiops-Truncatus
  • group-size
  • British-Columbia
  • large herbivores
  • habitat use
  • oscillation
  • trends
  • shark


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