[MARMAM] New publication: Hierarchical foraging of humpback whales relative to the structure of their prey

Theresa Kirchner tkirchner at coastalstudies.org
Thu Dec 6 16:05:21 PST 2018

 Dear colleagues,

We are excited to announce the following publication:

Kirchner T, Wiley DN, Hazen EL, Parks SE, Torres LG, Friedlaender AS
(2018): Hierarchical foraging of humpback whales relative to the structure
of their prey. Marine Ecology Progress Series 607: 237-250.

Abstract: Movement within and between prey patches can influence the
fitness of a predator, and understanding such foraging decisions is an
important topic in ecology. Most research has found sustained foraging in
dense prey patches but has focused on the movement of raptorial predators
that feed on single prey items, or suspension-feeders foraging on
comparatively immobile zooplankton. The goal of this study was to
investigate the fine-scale movement of a suspension-feeding marine
vertebrate species while foraging for mobile prey. Using animal-borne tags
and surface observations, we analyzed the movement of foraging humpback
whales *Megaptera novaeangliae* within and among acoustically detected
patches of sand lance *Ammodytes *spp. in the water column in the southern
Gulf of Maine, USA. Analyzing data from 9 whales tagged between 2008 and
2012, we found hierarchical whale foraging movements that paralleled a
complex, hierarchically structured prey landscape. For 7 out of 9 whales,
feeding bout scales corresponded to prey patch scales. For 6 out of 9
whales, movement between sequential feeding events was not significantly
different from distances between neighboring prey schools. Targeting
neighboring schools during sequential feeding events, as opposed to
sustained foraging in profitable patches, may increase foraging success in
marine suspension-feeders targeting mobile prey, which confirms findings
from many other marine predator taxa feeding on mobile prey species. Our
study presents novel evidence for the high behavioral plasticity of an
intermittent suspension-feeder targeting mobile prey, adapting its movement
to the behavior of its prey and the structure of its prey field.

Open Access to the article is available at:

Best regards,

Theresa Kirchner, M.S.

Research Assistant
Center for Coastal Studies
Provincetown, Massachusetts, USA
Email: tkirchner at coastalstudies.org

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