Subject: Re: communication between orcas

Forum Oceanos (
Wed, 15 Jul 1998 16:39:23 +0100

Hi Stephanie,

I understand your problem getting information about Killer-whale
communication, because there is not much around... Therefore, I'll try to do
my best, giving you some hints about the issue and places where you can get
more information.
The first thing I would do in your place was having a look at the "Whale Net
Search" and look up for "killer and communication". You will find a lot of
information posted there from previous answers to questions similar to
In second place we should start by defining "what" is communication. As my
colleague from the Whale Net, Robert Kenney, defined so well:

"Communication requires several components:
(1) a signal sent intentionally by one individual (intentionally does not
mean that the animal thinks about it or plans it) that is received by
(2) the signal changes the behaviour of the receiver in some way, even if
it's only to affect the probability of the receiver's following behaviour;
(3) the change in the receiver's behaviour benefits the sender".

There are at least 62 different sounds made by the Orcas that were
identified by the scientists. These sounds consist of high-pitched shrills
and shrieks and we know that groups from different areas have a distinct
accent or dialect. Further it seems that they use different kind of signals
for different situations, and that some of sounds produced cause clear
behavioural responses on the other animals. On the other hand, it seems that
body postures and physical contact are used to transmit information as well.
Therefore we can imagine that they have a good communication system, but we
still dont understand which is its degree of complexity.
One thing to bear in mind when discussing communication is not confusing it
with intelligence. Most animals use some degree of communication in their
inter-relationships but we dont consider that they are intelligent (at
least that they have the same kind of intelligence we do).

To get further information on that issue you can use the links I selected
bellow or use the ones in the WhaleNet
( There you will
find links to research institutions where you can contact people working
with killer whales.


Killer whales in general:

Thank you for your interest and keep on with the good work,

Fsrum Oceanos
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-----Original Message-----
From: <>
To: <>;
Date: Terga-feira, 14 de Julho de 1998 15:35
Subject: communication between orcas

>My name is Stephanie and I am a senior in high school.
>I am writing an extended essay for my international baccalaureat and I am
>having difficulty finding detailed information regarding communication
>orcas.  Do you have any reseach material that you could share with me. I
>really appreciate any help you can give me.  Thank you for your time.