[MARMAM] Right whale publication

Jim Hain 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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