[MARMAM] Right whale publication
jhain at earthlink.net
Thu Jan 17 06:16:00 PST 2013
*Swim speed, behavior, and movement of North Atlantic right whales
(/Eubalaena glacialis/) in coastal waters of northeastern Florida, USA,*
by Hain, J.H.W, J.D. Hampp, S.A. McKenney, J.A. Albert, and R.D. Kenney
has been published in PLoS ONE 8(1): e54340.
It is available for download at:
In a portion of the coastal waters of northeastern Florida, North
Atlantic right whales (/Eubalaena glacialis/) occur close to shore from
December through March. These waters are included within the designated
critical habitat for right whales. Data on swim speed, behavior, and
direction of movement---with photo-identification of individual
whales---were gathered by a volunteer sighting network working alongside
experienced scientists and supplemented by aerial observations. In seven
years (2001-2007), 109 tracking periods or "follows" were conducted on
right whales during 600 hours of observation from shore-based observers.
The whales were categorized as mother-calf pairs, singles and
non-mother-calf pairs, and groups of 3 or more individuals. Sample size
and amount of information obtained was largest for mother-calf pairs.
Swim speeds varied within and across observation periods, individuals,
and categories. One category, singles and non mother-calf pairs, was
significantly different from the other two---and had the largest
variability and the fastest swim speeds. Median swim speed for all
categories was 1.3 km/h (0.7 kn), with examples that suggest swim speeds
differ between within-habitat movement and migration-mode travel.
Within-habitat right whales often travel back-and-forth in a
north-south, along-coast, direction, which may cause an individual to
pass by a given point on several occasions, potentially increasing
anthropogenic risk exposure (/e.g./, vessel collision, fishing gear
entanglement, harassment). At times, mothers and calves engaged in
lengthy stationary periods (up to 7.5 h) that included rest, nursing,
and play. These mother-calf interactions have implications for
communication, learning, and survival. Overall, these behaviors are
relevant to population status, distribution, calving success,
correlation to environmental parameters, survey efficacy, and
human-impacts mitigation. These observations contribute important
parameters to conservation biology, predictive modeling, and management.
However, while we often search for predictions, patterns, and means, the
message here is also about variability and the behavioral
characteristics of individual whales.
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