[MARMAM] new paper on fidelity to feeding areas in southern right whales

Luciano Valenzuela valenzuela at biology.utah.edu
Wed Feb 4 11:14:13 PST 2009

The following paper was published in /Molecular Ecology/'s  EarlyView today.

Isotopic and genetic evidence for culturally inherited site fidelity to 
feeding grounds in southern right whales (/Eubalaena australis/).  
Luciano O. Valenzuela, Mariano Sironi, Victoria J. Rowntree and Jon 
Seger.  DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2008.04069.x

Ocean warming will undoubtedly affect the migratory patterns of many 
marine species, but specific changes can be predicted only where 
behavioural mechanisms guiding migration are understood. Southern right 
whales show maternally inherited site fidelity to near-shore winter 
nursery grounds, but exactly where they feed in summer (collectively and 
individually) remains mysterious. They consume huge quantities of 
copepods and krill, and their reproductive rates respond to fluctuations 
in krill abundance linked to El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Here 
we show that genetic and isotopic signatures, analysed together, 
indicate maternally directed site fidelity to diverse summer feeding 
grounds for female right whales calving at Península Valdés, Argentina. 
Isotopic values from 131 skin samples span a broad range (-23.1 to 
-17.20/00?13C, 6.0 to 13.80/00?15N) and are more similar than expected 
among individuals sharing the same mitochondrial haplotype. This pattern 
indicates that calves learn summer feeding locations from their mothers, 
and that the timescale of culturally inherited site fidelity to feeding 
grounds is at least several generations. Such conservatism would be 
expected to limit the exploration of new feeding opportunities, and may 
explain why this population shows increased rates of reproductive 
failure in years following elevated sea-surface temperature anomalies 
off South Georgia, the richest known feeding ground for baleen whales in 
the South Atlantic.

Luciano Valenzuela

Luciano O. Valenzuela
Postdoctoral Researcher

Department of Biology
University of Utah
257 South 1400 East
Salt Lake City, UT, 84112, USA

Phone: 1-801-587-3405
valenzuela at biology.utah.edu

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