The tail of Pseudorca

by Katarina Rolf Ahoy dedicated readers! We are hard at work out in the lovely Gulfo de Chiriquí, capturing photo IDs and making sure that the sun 7° North of the equator doesn’t burn us to a crisp. Today was quite the exciting day for Panacetacea. After passing by a mom/calf pair first thing in the morning, Kristin decided that we should put the hydrophone in the water and try to capture the sounds of the cetaceans swimming around us. As per usual, we heard some singing males. However, today seemed to be a bit more active in the dolphin community than we were used to. Our headphones were filled with intricate whistles and clicks that were almost as loud as the singing. Unusual? Not really. Atypical? Sure. We thought nothing of it when we saw what we thought were large dolphin looking dorsal fins rise out of the water, maybe Tursiops? Kristin immediately and astutely noticed that something didn’t seem quite right… the blows were much larger than usual. As the supposed bottlenose dolphins approached the boat, she climbed to the bow and took a peek down to the waters below.

A false killer whale surfaces next to our boat

“IT’S PSEUDORCA IT’S PSEUDORCA IT DOESN’T HAVE A BEAK!”

Betzi and I were puzzled. We heard “It’s some orcas!”, which didn’t make sense. Eventually, we all figured out that what we were seeing were false killer whales, a 15-foot blackfish found in mostly open ocean tropical and semitropical waters. Seeing them in the waters of Chiriqui was a first for all of us. We followed them around for what felt like just five minutes but was really almost half an hour. Today, we wanted to share some of the GoPro footage that we captured with you. Listen for their whistles and clicks, and hopefully you can experience a piece of the excitement that we had today!

A couple of days later, we saw them again! This time with a competitive group! It looked as if the pseudorcas might have been attempting to play with the humpbacks, and the humpbacks didn't seem too interested.  A pod of between 50 and 70 pseudorcas surrounded our little Chiripanga as we watched the spectacle unfold before us. We observed the group interacting for approximately 20 minutes before they headed their separate ways. Today, we wanted to share some of the GoPro footage that we captured from both days with you. Listen for their whistles and clicks, and hopefully you can experience a piece of the excitement that we had!


A false killer whale and humpback whale surface together

A false killer whale breaking the surface of the water as it surfaces alongside our boat

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