VIDEO: Dolphins befriend killer whale off B.C. coast

Resident southern killer whales don’t naturally hunt dolphins

A group of dolphins has struck up an unlikely friendship with killer whales off the B.C. coast, footage from OceanWise released Monday shows.

Researchers from OceanWise captured the footage of Pacific white-sided dolphins interacting with resident killer whales last summer, and although they’re not sure why, they have a few ideas.

Dolphins are prey for transient (mammal eating) killer whales, but they aren’t part of the food chain for the fish-eating resident killer whales, said Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard, senior scientist and director of the Marine Mammal Research Program at the Coastal Ocean Research Institute.

VIDEO: Dolphins put on a show for BC Ferries customers

“What’s in it for the dolphins? It could be safety, for one thing,” said Barrett-Lennard.

“A white-sided dolphin travelling with resident killer whales isn’t going to be hunted by transients because the [different species of killer whales] avoid each other, so this dolphin doesn’t have a care in the world.”

The dolphins could also be checking out predators, Barrett-Lennard said, to be better prepared to face them later on.

“By spending time around killer whales they are learning more about them, about their speed and agility in the water, so it could help them avoid predation by other killer whales in the future,” he said.

READ MORE: New orca calf in Salish Sea ‘healthy and active’


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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