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ArticleInfluence of environmental parameters on movements and habitat utilization of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in the Madagascar breeding ground(The Royal Society, 2016-12-21) Trudelle, Laurène ; Cerchio, Salvatore ; Zerbini, Alexandre N. ; Geyer, Ygor ; Mayer, François-Xavier ; Jung, Jean-Luc ; Herve, Maxime R. ; Pous, Stephane ; Sallee, Jean-Baptiste ; Rosenbaum, Howard C. ; Adam, Olivier ; Charrassin, Jean-BenoitAssessing the movement patterns and key habitat features of breeding humpback whales is a prerequisite for the conservation management of this philopatric species. To investigate the interactions between humpback whale movements and environmental conditions off Madagascar, we deployed 25 satellite tags in the northeast and southwest coast of Madagascar. For each recorded position, we collated estimates of environmental variables and computed two behavioural metrics: behavioural state of ‘transiting’ (consistent/directional) versus ‘localized’ (variable/non-directional), and active swimming speed (i.e. speed relative to the current). On coastal habitats (i.e. bathymetry < 200 m and in adjacent areas), females showed localized behaviour in deep waters (191 ± 20 m) and at large distances (14 ± 0.6 km) from shore, suggesting that their breeding habitat extends beyond the shallowest waters available close to the coastline. Males' active swimming speed decreased in shallow waters, but environmental parameters did not influence their likelihood to exhibit localized movements, which was probably dominated by social factors instead. In oceanic habitats, both males and females showed localized behaviours in shallow waters and favoured high chlorophyll-a concentrations. Active swimming speed accounts for a large proportion of observed movement speed; however, breeding humpback whales probably exploit prevailing ocean currents to maximize displacement. This study provides evidence that coastal areas, generally subject to strong human pressure, remain the core habitat of humpback whales off Madagascar. Our results expand the knowledge of humpback whale habitat use in oceanic habitat and response to variability of environmental factors such as oceanic current and chlorophyll level.
ArticleSongbird dynamics under the sea : acoustic interactions between humpback whales suggest song mediates male interactions(The Royal Society, 2018-02-14) Cholewiak, Danielle ; Cerchio, Salvatore ; Jacobsen, Jeff K. ; Urbán-R., Jorge ; Clark, Christopher W.The function of song has been well studied in numerous taxa and plays a role in mediating both intersexual and intrasexual interactions. Humpback whales are among few mammals who sing, but the role of sexual selection on song in this species is poorly understood. While one predominant hypothesis is that song mediates male–male interactions, the mechanism by which this may occur has never been explored. We applied metrics typically used to assess songbird interactions to examine song sequences and movement patterns of humpback whale singers. We found that males altered their song presentation in the presence of other singers; focal males increased the rate at which they switched between phrase types (p = 0.005), and tended to increase the overall evenness of their song presentation (p = 0.06) after a second male began singing. Two-singer dyads overlapped their song sequences significantly more than expected by chance. Spatial analyses revealed that change in distance between singers was related to whether both males kept singing (p = 0.012), with close approaches leading to song cessation. Overall, acoustic interactions resemble known mechanisms of mediating intrasexual interactions in songbirds. Future work should focus on more precisely resolving how changes in song presentation may be used in competition between singing males.
ArticleKiller whales and marine mammal trends in the North Pacific : a re-examination of evidence for sequential megafauna collapse and the prey-switching hypothesis(Blackwell, 2007-10-26) Wade, Paul R. ; Burkanov, Vladimir N. ; Dahlheim, Marilyn E. ; Friday, Nancy A. ; Fritz, Lowell W. ; Loughlin, Thomas R. ; Mizroch, Sally A. ; Muto, Marcia M. ; Rice, Dale W. ; Barrett-Lennard, Lance G. ; Black, Nancy A. ; Burdin, Alexander M. ; Calambokidis, John ; Cerchio, Salvatore ; Ford, John K. B. ; Jacobsen, Jeff K. ; Matkin, Craig O. ; Matkin, Dena R. ; Mehta, Amee V. ; Small, Robert J. ; Straley, Janice M. ; McCluskey, Shannon M. ; VanBlaricom, Glenn R.Springer et al. (2003) contend that sequential declines occurred in North Pacific populations of harbor and fur seals, Steller sea lions, and sea otters. They hypothesize that these were due to increased predation by killer whales, when industrial whaling's removal of large whales as a supposed primary food source precipitated a prey switch. Using a regional approach, we reexamined whale catch data, killer whale predation observations, and the current biomass and trends of potential prey, and found little support for the prey-switching hypothesis. Large whale biomass in the Bering Sea did not decline as much as suggested by Springer et al., and much of the reduction occurred 50–100 yr ago, well before the declines of pinnipeds and sea otters began; thus, the need to switch prey starting in the 1970s is doubtful. With the sole exception that the sea otter decline followed the decline of pinnipeds, the reported declines were not in fact sequential. Given this, it is unlikely that a sequential megafaunal collapse from whales to sea otters occurred. The spatial and temporal patterns of pinniped and sea otter population trends are more complex than Springer et al. suggest, and are often inconsistent with their hypothesis. Populations remained stable or increased in many areas, despite extensive historical whaling and high killer whale abundance. Furthermore, observed killer whale predation has largely involved pinnipeds and small cetaceans; there is little evidence that large whales were ever a major prey item in high latitudes. Small cetaceans (ignored by Springer et al.) were likely abundant throughout the period. Overall, we suggest that the Springer et al. hypothesis represents a misleading and simplistic view of events and trophic relationships within this complex marine ecosystem.
ArticleContinuous movement behavior of humpback whales during the breeding season in the southwest Indian Ocean : on the road again!(BioMed Central, 2017-05-01) Dulau-Drouot, Violaine ; Pinet, Patrick ; Geyer, Ygor ; Fayan, Jacques ; Mongin, Philippe ; Cottarel, Guillaume ; Zerbini, Alexandre N. ; Cerchio, SalvatoreHumpback whales are known to undertake long-distance migration between feeding and breeding sites, but their movement behavior within their breeding range is still poorly known. Satellite telemetry was used to investigate movement of humpback whales during the breeding season and provide further understanding of the breeding ecology and sub-population connectivity within the southwest Indian Ocean (SWIO). Implantable Argos satellite tags were deployed on 15 whales (7 males and 6 females) during the peak of the breeding season in Reunion Island. A switching-state-space model was applied to the telemetry data, in order to discriminate between “transiting” and “localized” movements, the latter of which relates to meandering behavior within putative breeding habitats, and a kernel density analysis was used to assess the spatial scale of the main putative breeding sites. Whales were tracked for up to 71 days from 31/07/2013 to 16/10/2013. The mean transmission duration was 25.7 days and the mean distance travelled was 2125.8 km. The tracks showed consistent movement of whales from Reunion to Madagascar, demonstrating a high level of connectivity between the two sub-regions, and the use of yet unknown breeding sites such as underwater seamounts (La Perouse) and banks (Mascarene Plateau). A localized movement pattern occurred in distinct bouts along the tracks, suggesting that whales were involved in breeding activity for 4.3 consecutive days on average, after which they resume transiting for an average of 6.6 days. Males visited several breeding sites within the SWIO, suggesting for the first time a movement strategy at a basin scale to maximize mating. Unexpectedly, females with calf also showed extensive transiting movement, while they engaged in localized behavior mainly off Reunion and Sainte-Marie (East Madagascar). The results indicated that whales from Reunion do not represent a discrete population. Discrete breeding sites were identified, thereby highlighting priority areas for conservation. The study is a first attempt to quantify movement of humpback whales within the southwestern Indian Ocean breeding range. We demonstrate a wandering behavior with stopovers at areas that likely represent key breeding habitat, a strategy which may enhance likelihood of individual reproductive success.