[MARMAM] New publication sperm whales Galápagos habitat use

Ana Eguiguren anaeguibur at gmail.com
Thu Jan 31 08:30:22 PST 2019

 Dear MARMAMers,

My coauthors and I are excited to announce the publication of our latest
research in Marine Ecology Progress Series:

Eguiguren, A., Pirotta, E., Cantor, M., Rendell, L.,  Whitehead, H. Habitat
use of culturally distinct Galápagos sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus)
clans. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 605: 257 - 270.

Ecological niche is traditionally defined at the species level, but
individual niches can vary considerably within species. Research on
intra-specific niche variation has been focussed on intrinsic drivers.
However, differential transmission of socially learned behaviours can also
lead to intra-specific niche variation. In sperm whales Physeter
macrocephalus, social transmission of information is thought to generate
culturally distinct clans, which at times occur sympatrically. Clans have
distinct dialects, foraging success rates, and movement patterns, but
whether the niches of clan members are also different remains unknown. We
evaluated the differences in habitat use of clans off the Galápagos
Islands, using data collected over 63 encounters between 1985 and 2014.
During encounters, we recorded geographic positions, determined clan
identity through analysis of group vocalizations and individual
associations, and used topographical and oceanographic variables as proxies
of sperm whale prey distribution. We used logistic generalized additive
models, fitted with generalized estimating equations to account for
spatiotemporal autocorrelation, to predict clan identity as a function of
the environment descriptors. Oceanographic variables marginally contributed
to differentiating clans. Clan identity could be predicted almost entirely
based on geographic location. This fine-scale, within-region spatial
partitioning likely derives from whales preferring areas where members of
their clans occur over temporal scales of a few months to a few years. By
identifying differences in clans’ space use, we have uncovered another
level of sperm whale life that is likely influenced by their cultural

Please contact anaeguibur at gmail.com if you are interested in the full PDF.


Ana Eguiguren
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