Cross-cultural and cross-ecotype production of a killer whale ‘excitement’ call suggests universality
Killer whale discrete calls include types containing an overlapping high-frequency component (biphonic calls) and types without an overlapping high-frequency component (monophonic calls). In the resident killer whales of the Northeast Pacific, biphonic discrete calls exhibit higher source levels than monophonic calls, which suggests different active space and consequently different functions for monophonic and biphonic call types. In this study we investigate the potential communicative functions of monophonic and biphonic discrete calls produced by killer whales from Kamchatka (Northwest Pacific). We analyze how the usage of these calls depends on the number of pods present in the area and type of activity. Our results show that the usage of monophonic and biphonic calls in Kamchatkan killer whales depends on the number of pods in the area and is less dependent on the type of activity. Biphonic calls are more common when more than one pod is present in the area and could therefore function as markers of pod and matriline affiliation, serving mainly as cohesion signals. Monophonic calls dominated the vocalizations when a single pod was present, while in the presence of more than one pod both categories were used in equal proportions.