Heide-Jørgensen Mads Peter

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Heide-Jørgensen
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Mads Peter
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Multi-year patterns in testosterone, cortisol and corticosterone in baleen from adult males of three whale species

2018-09-21 , Hunt, Kathleen E. , Lysiak, Nadine S. J. , Matthews, Cory J. D. , Lowe, Carley , Ajo, Alejandro Fernández , Dillon, Danielle , Willing, Cornelia , Heide-Jørgensen, Mads Peter , Ferguson, Steven H. , Moore, Michael J. , Buck, C. Loren

Male baleen whales have long been suspected to have annual cycles in testosterone, but due to difficulty in collecting endocrine samples, little direct evidence exists to confirm this hypothesis. Potential influences of stress or adrenal stress hormones (cortisol, corticosterone) on male reproduction have also been difficult to study. Baleen has recently been shown to accumulate steroid hormones during growth, such that a single baleen plate contains a continuous, multi-year retrospective record of the whale’s endocrine history. As a preliminary investigation into potential testosterone cyclicity in male whales and influences of stress, we determined patterns in immunoreactive testosterone, two glucocorticoids (cortisol and corticosterone), and stable-isotope (SI) ratios, across the full length of baleen plates from a bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus), a North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) and a blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus), all adult males. Baleen was subsampled at 2 cm (bowhead, right) or 1 cm (blue) intervals and hormones were extracted from baleen powder with methanol, followed by quantification of all three hormones using enzyme immunoassays validated for baleen extract of these species. Baleen of all three males contained regularly spaced peaks in testosterone content, with number and spacing of testosterone peaks corresponding well to SI data and to species-specific estimates of annual baleen growth rate. Cortisol and corticosterone exhibited some peaks that co-occurred with testosterone peaks, while other glucocorticoid peaks occurred independent of testosterone peaks. The right whale had unusually high glucocorticoids during a period with a known entanglement in fishing gear and a possible disease episode; in the subsequent year, testosterone was unusually low. Further study of baleen testosterone patterns in male whales could help clarify conservation- and management-related questions such as age of sexual maturity, location and season of breeding, and the potential effect of anthropogenic and natural stressors on male testosterone cycles.

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Ecological characteristics of core-use areas used by Bering–Chukchi–Beaufort (BCB) bowhead whales, 2006–2012

2015-09-10 , Citta, John J. , Quakenbush, Lori T. , Okkonen, Stephen R. , Druckenmiller, Matthew L. , Maslowski, Wieslaw , Clement-Kinney, Jaclyn L. , George, John C. , Brower, Harry , Small, Robert J. , Ashjian, Carin J. , Harwood, Lois A. , Heide-Jørgensen, Mads Peter

The Bering–Chukchi–Beaufort (BCB) population of bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) ranges across the seasonally ice-covered waters of the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort seas. We used locations from 54 bowhead whales, obtained by satellite telemetry between 2006 and 2012, to define areas of concentrated use, termed “core-use areas”. We identified six primary core-use areas and describe the timing of use and physical characteristics (oceanography, sea ice, and winds) associated with these areas. In spring, most whales migrated from wintering grounds in the Bering Sea to the Cape Bathurst polynya, Canada (Area 1), and spent the most time in the vicinity of the halocline at depths <75 m, which are within the euphotic zone, where calanoid copepods ascend following winter diapause. Peak use of the polynya occurred between 7 May and 5 July; whales generally left in July, when copepods are expected to descend to deeper depths. Between 12 July and 25 September, most tagged whales were located in shallow shelf waters adjacent to the Tuktoyaktuk Peninsula, Canada (Area 2), where wind-driven upwelling promotes the concentration of calanoid copepods. Between 22 August and 2 November, whales also congregated near Point Barrow, Alaska (Area 3), where east winds promote upwelling that moves zooplankton onto the Beaufort shelf, and subsequent relaxation of these winds promoted zooplankton aggregations. Between 27 October and 8 January, whales congregated along the northern shore of Chukotka, Russia (Area 4), where zooplankton likely concentrated along a coastal front between the southeastward-flowing Siberian Coastal Current and northward-flowing Bering Sea waters. The two remaining core-use areas occurred in the Bering Sea: Anadyr Strait (Area 5), where peak use occurred between 29 November and 20 April, and the Gulf of Anadyr (Area 6), where peak use occurred between 4 December and 1 April; both areas exhibited highly fractured sea ice. Whales near the Gulf of Anadyr spent almost half of their time at depths between 75 and 100 m, usually near the seafloor, where a subsurface front between cold Anadyr Water and warmer Bering Shelf Water presumably aggregates zooplankton. The amount of time whales spent near the seafloor in the Gulf of Anadyr, where copepods (in diapause) and, possibly, euphausiids are expected to aggregate provides strong evidence that bowhead whales are feeding in winter. The timing of bowhead spring migration corresponds with when zooplankton are expected to begin their spring ascent in April. The core-use areas we identified are also generally known from other studies to have high densities of whales and we are confident these areas represent the majority of important feeding areas during the study (2006–2012). Other feeding areas, that we did not detect, likely existed during the study and we expect core-use area boundaries to shift in response to changing hydrographic conditions.