[MARMAM] New publication on blue whale migration, resource tracking, and memory

Briana Abrahms briana.abrahms at noaa.gov
Mon Feb 25 13:40:59 PST 2019

Dear colleagues,

My co-authors and I are pleased to share the recent publication of our
paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:

Abrahms, B., Hazen, E.L., Aikens, E.O., Savoca, M.S., Goldbogen, J.A.,
Bograd, S.J., Jacox, M.G., Irvine, L.M., Palacios, D.M., and Mate, B.R.
Memory and resource tracking drive blue whale migrations. *Proceedings of
the National Academy of Sciences*, DOI:

Abstract: In terrestrial systems, the Green Wave Hypothesis posits that
migrating animals can enhance foraging opportunities by tracking
phenological variation in high quality forage across space (i.e., ‘resource
waves’). To track resource waves, animals may rely on proximate cues and/or
memory of long-term average phenologies. Although there is growing evidence
of resource tracking in terrestrial migrants, such drivers remain
unevaluated in migratory marine megafauna. Here we present a novel test of
the Green Wave Hypothesis in a marine system. We compare ten years of blue
whale movement data with the timing of the spring phytoplankton bloom
resulting in increased prey availability in the California Current
Ecosystem, allowing us to investigate resource tracking both
contemporaneously (response to proximate cues) and based on climatological
conditions (memory) during migrations. Blue whales closely tracked the
long-term average phenology of the spring bloom, but did not track
contemporaneous green-up. In addition, blue whale foraging locations were
characterized by low long-term habitat variability and high long-term
productivity compared to contemporaneous measurements. Results indicate
that memory of long-term average conditions may have a previously
underappreciated role in driving migratory movements of long-lived species
in marine systems, and suggest that these animals may struggle to respond
to rapid deviations from historical mean environmental conditions. Results
further highlight that ecological theory of migration is conserved across
marine and terrestrial systems. Understanding the drivers of animal
migration is critical for assessing how environmental changes will affect
highly mobile fauna at a global scale.

An online version of the article can be accessed here:

The underlying data have also been published as a Movebank Repository under
a Creative Commons Zero license as:
Mate BR, Palacios DM, Irvine LM, Follett TM (2019) Data from: Behavioural
estimation of blue whale movements in the Northeast Pacific from
state-space model analysis of satellite tracks. Movebank Data Repository.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.5441/001/1.5ph88fk2.

Best wishes,
Briana Abrahms and co-authors
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