[MARMAM] New Publication: Estimating blue whale skin isotopic incorporation rates and baleen growth rates (Busquets-Vass, Geraldine)

Geraldine Busquets geraldine.busquets at gmail.com
Thu Jun 1 19:06:28 PDT 2017

New Publication: Estimating blue whale skin isotopic incorporation rates
and baleen growth rates (Busquets-Vass, Geraldine)

Dear MARMAM subscribers,

My co-authors and I are pleased to announce a new publication in PLoS ONE:

Busquets-Vass G, Newsome SD, Calambokidis J, Serra-Valente G, Jacobsen JK,
Aguíñiga-García S, et al. (2017) Estimating blue whale skin isotopic
incorporation rates and baleen growth rates: Implications for assessing
diet and movement patterns in mysticetes. PLoS ONE 12(5): e0177880.


Stable isotope analysis in mysticete skin and baleen plates has been
repeatedly used to assess diet and movement patterns. Accurate
interpretation of isotope data depends on understanding isotopic
incorporation rates for metabolically active tissues and growth rates for
metabolically inert tissues. The aim of this research was to estimate
isotopic incorporation rates in blue whale skin and baleen growth rates by
using natural gradients in baseline isotope values between oceanic regions.
Nitrogen (δ15N) and carbon (δ13C) isotope values of blue whale skin and
potential prey were analyzed from three foraging zones (Gulf of California,
California Current System, and Costa Rica Dome) in the northeast Pacific
from 1996–2015. We also measured δ15N and δ13C values along the lengths of
baleen plates collected from six blue whales stranded in the 1980s and
2000s. Skin was separated into three strata: basale, externum, and sloughed
skin. A mean (±SD) skin isotopic incorporation rate of 163±91 days was
estimated by fitting a generalized additive model of the seasonal trend in δ
15N values of skin strata collected in the Gulf of California and the
California Current System. A mean (±SD) baleen growth rate of 15.5±2.2 cm y
-1 was estimated by using seasonal oscillations in δ15N values from three
whales. These oscillations also showed that individual whales have a high
fidelity to distinct foraging zones in the northeast Pacific across years.
The absence of oscillations in δ15N values of baleen sub-samples from three
male whales suggests these individuals remained within a specific zone for
several years prior to death. δ13C values of both whale tissues (skin and
baleen) and potential prey were not distinct among foraging zones. Our
results highlight the importance of considering tissue isotopic
incorporation and growth rates when studying migratory mysticetes and
provide new insights into the individual movement strategies of blue whales.

The article can be found at:

The article is open access; so anyone who is interested in the manuscript
should be able to download a pdf of it. However if you have any problems
getting a copy, or have any questions, please email:
dianegendroncicimar at gmail.com or geraldine.busquets at gmail.com

Kind regards,

Geraldine R. Busquets-Vass,

Estudiante del Doctorado en Ciencias Marinas

Centro Interdisciplinario de Ciencias Marinas - Instituto Politécnico

Departamento de Pesquerías y Biología Marina

Laboratorio de Ecología de Cetáceos y Quelonios

La paz, Baja California Sur, México.

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