[MARMAM] New publication: Humpback whale tracking in the SW Indian Ocean

Violaine Globice violaine.dulau at globice.org
Tue May 30 03:33:38 PDT 2017

Dear colleagues,

We are pleased to announce the publication of the following paper in
Movement Ecology :

Dulau V., Pinet P., Geyer Y., Fayan J., Mongin P., Cottarel G., Zerbini A.,
Cerchio S. 2017. Continuous movement behavior of humpback whales during the
breeding season in the southwest Indian Ocean: on the road again! Movement
Ecology 5:11. Doi: DOI 10.1186/s40462-017-0101-5


Background: Humpback whales are known to undertake long-distance migration
between feeding and breeding sites, but their movement behavior within their
breeding range is still poorly known. Satellite telemetry was used to
investigate movement of humpback whales during the breeding season and
provide further understanding of the breeding ecology and sub-population
connectivity within the southwest Indian Ocean (SWIO). Implantable Argos
satellite tags were deployed on 15 whales (7 males and 6 females) during the
peak of the breeding season in Reunion Island. A switching-state-space model
was applied to the telemetry data, in order to discriminate between
"transiting" and "localized" movements, the latter of which relates to
meandering behavior within putative breeding habitats, and a kernel density
analysis was used to assess the spatial scale of the main putative breeding


Results: Whales were tracked for up to 71 days from 31/07/2013 to
16/10/2013. The mean transmission duration was 25.7 days and the mean
distance travelled was 2125.8 km. The tracks showed consistent movement of
whales from Reunion to Madagascar, demonstrating a high level of
connectivity between the two sub-regions, and the use of yet unknown
breeding sites such as underwater seamounts (La Perouse) and banks
(Mascarene Plateau). A localized movement pattern occurred in distinct bouts
along the tracks, suggesting that whales were involved in breeding activity
for 4.3 consecutive days on average, after which they resume transiting for
an average of 6.6 days. Males visited several breeding sites within the
SWIO, suggesting for the first time a movement strategy at a basin scale to
maximize mating. Unexpectedly, females with calf also showed extensive
transiting movement, while they engaged in localized behavior mainly off
Reunion and Sainte-Marie (East Madagascar).


Conclusions: The results indicated that whales from Reunion do not represent
a discrete population. Discrete breeding sites were identified, thereby
highlighting priority areas for conservation. The study is a first attempt
to quantify movement of humpback whales within the southwestern Indian Ocean
breeding range. We demonstrate a wandering behavior with stopovers at areas
that likely represent key breeding habitat, a strategy which may enhance
likelihood of individual reproductive success.


Keywords: Humpback whales, Satellite tracking, Reunion, Indian Ocean,
Breeding behavior, Movement pattern


This is an Open Access article and it can be downloaded at:


Best regards, 

Violaine DULAU




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