Seton Rosemary E.

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Rosemary E.

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  • Article
    Baleen whales are not important as prey for killer whales Orcinus orca in high-latitude regions
    (Inter-Research, 2007-10-25) Mehta, Amee V. ; Allen, Judith M. ; Constantine, Rochelle ; Garrigue, Claire ; Jann, Beatrice ; Jenner, Curt ; Marx, Marilyn K. ; Matkin, Craig O. ; Mattila, David K. ; Minton, Gianna ; Mizroch, Sally A. ; Olavarría, Carlos ; Robbins, Jooke ; Russell, Kirsty G. ; Seton, Rosemary E. ; Steiger, Gretchen H. ; Víkingsson, Gísli A. ; Wade, Paul R. ; Witteveen, Briana H. ; Clapham, Phillip J.
    Certain populations of killer whales Orcinus orca feed primarily or exclusively on marine mammals. However, whether or not baleen whales represent an important prey source for killer whales is debatable. A hypothesis by Springer et al. (2003) suggested that overexploitation of large whales by industrial whaling forced killer whales to prey-switch from baleen whales to pinnipeds and sea otters, resulting in population declines for these smaller marine mammals in the North Pacific and southern Bering Sea. This prey-switching hypothesis is in part contingent upon the idea that killer whales commonly attack mysticetes while they are in these high-latitude areas. In this study, we used photographic and sighting data from long-term studies of baleen whales in 24 regions worldwide to determine the proportion of whales that bear scars (rake marks) from killer whale attacks, and to examine the timing of scar acquisition. The results of this study show that there is considerable geographic variation in the proportion of whales with rake marks, ranging from 0% to >40% in different regions. In every region, the great majority of the scars seen were present on the whales’ bodies when the animals were first sighted. Less than 7% (9 of 132) of scarred humpback whales with multi-year sighting histories acquired new scars after the first sighting. This suggests that most killer whale attacks on baleen whales target young animals, probably calves on their first migration from low-latitude breeding and calving areas to high-latitude feeding grounds. Overall, our results imply that adult baleen whales are not an important prey source for killer whales in high latitudes, and therefore that one of the primary assumptions underlying the Springer et al. (2003) prey-switching hypothesis (and its purported link to industrial whaling) is invalid.
  • Article
    Multiple steroid and thyroid hormones detected in baleen from eight whale species
    (Oxford University Press, 2017-11-09) Hunt, Kathleen E. ; Lysiak, Nadine S. J. ; Robbins, Jooke ; Moore, Michael J. ; Seton, Rosemary E. ; Torres, Leigh ; Buck, C. Loren
    Recent studies have demonstrated that some hormones are present in baleen powder from bowhead (Balaena mysticetus) and North Atlantic right (Eubalaena glacialis) whales. To test the potential generalizability of this technique for studies of stress and reproduction in large whales, we sought to determine whether all major classes of steroid and thyroid hormones are detectable in baleen, and whether these hormones are detectable in other mysticetes. Powdered baleen samples were recovered from single specimens of North Atlantic right, bowhead, blue (Balaenoptera [B.]musculus), sei (B. borealis), minke (B. acutorostrata), fin (B. physalus), humpback (Megaptera novaeangliae) and gray (Eschrichtius robustus) whales. Hormones were extracted with a methanol vortex method, after which we tested all species with commercial enzyme immunoassays (EIAs, Arbor Assays) for progesterone, testosterone, 17β-estradiol, cortisol, corticosterone, aldosterone, thyroxine and tri-iodothyronine, representing a wide array of steroid and thyroid hormones of interest for whale physiology research. In total, 64 parallelism tests (8 species × 8 hormones) were evaluated to verify good binding affinity of the assay antibodies to hormones in baleen. We also tested assay accuracy, although available sample volume limited this test to progesterone, testosterone and cortisol. All tested hormones were detectable in baleen powder of all species, and all assays passed parallelism and accuracy tests. Although only single individuals were tested, the consistent detectability of all hormones in all species indicates that baleen hormone analysis is likely applicable to a broad range of mysticetes, and that the EIA kits tested here perform well with baleen extract. Quantification of hormones in baleen may be a suitable technique with which to explore questions that have historically been difficult to address in large whales, including pregnancy and inter-calving interval, age of sexual maturation, timing and duration of seasonal reproductive cycles, adrenal physiology and metabolic rate.