[MARMAM] Doctoral thesis on Humpback whales in Hervey Bay, Queensland, Australia

Wally Franklin wally at oceania.org.au
Sun Sep 7 14:55:47 PDT 2014

I am pleased to announce acceptance of my doctoral thesis into the research and scholarly publications of Southern Cross University.
The thesis is available for download at: http://epubs.scu.edu.au/theses/357/

Title:  The social and ecological significance of Hervey Bay Queensland for eastern Australian humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae)

This study provides the first detailed research on the seasonal pod characteristics, seasonal social behaviour and temporal segregation of different reproductive and maturational classes of humpback whales in Hervey Bay (Queensland, Australia). Vessel-based surveys for this study were conducted for 9 weeks in 1992 and for 10 weeks each year between 1993 and 2009. The overall aim of this research was to investigate the importance of Hervey Bay for particular classes of humpback whales, and to assess whether social factors influenced seasonal pod characteristics, social behaviour and temporal segregation. The size and composition of pods in Hervey Bay varied significantly as the season progressed. Pods with calves present were rarely sighted early in the season but dominated later in the season. A significant increase was recorded over years in the frequency of groups of 3+ whales, which may be related to social and behavioural changes as the eastern Australian population expands. Non-agonistic social behaviour was observed more frequently earlier in the season when immature and mature males and females predominated and pods with calves were rarely observed. In contrast, competitive groups were observed more frequently later in the season when mother-calf pods predominated and increased significantly towards the end of the season as pod size and composition changed. Competitive groups and non-agonistic social behaviour were more frequently observed in both larger and newly associated pods. Mature non-lactating females occurred mainly during August. Lactating females occurred in September and October with peak density occurring in late September, an average of thirty-two days after that for mature non-lactating females. There were very few mature males observed in August, with the main concentrations occurring in September and October. Furthermore, both non-lactating and lactating females interact with immature and maturing males and females to a greater extent than previously reported, and show that social factors influence pod dynamics and behaviour of humpback whales in Hervey Bay. Hervey Bay is neither a terminal destination nor a calving or breeding area but rather a stopover early in the southern migration. This research has shown that Hervey Bay is an important habitat for different maturational and reproductive classes of whales.  This is particularly true for females and their calves later in the season; for non-lactating and early pregnant females together with immature males and females early in the season; and for mature males seeking to maximise mating opportunities in mid- to late season.

Keywords: humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae, Hervey Bay, Queensland eastern Australia, social behaviour, pod size, pod composition, competitive groups, non-agonistic social behaviour, temporal segregation, migration, social organisation, photo-identification

Trish Franklin, BA (Hons) La Trobe, Melbourne: PhD  Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW
trish.franklin at oceania.org.au

Trish & Wally Franklin
The Oceania Project
PO Box 646 Byron Bay NSW 2481 Australia
ABN 73 052 470 630   ACN 052 470 630
Phone: 0418 797 326
Skype:  oceania.org.au
Email: trish.wally at oceania.org.au
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Songlines of the eastern Australian Humpback whales
Southern Cross University Whale Research Centre
Trish Franklin: PhD Thesis

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