[MARMAM] New paper on Hidden Markov models and killer whale behavior

Jennifer Tennessen - NOAA Affiliate jennifer.tennessen at noaa.gov
Mon Oct 21 16:57:12 PDT 2019

Dear MARMAM readers,

My colleagues and I are pleased to announce the open access publication of
the following paper in Scientific Reports, available here


Tennessen, J. B., Holt, M. M., Ward, E. J., Hanson, M. B., Emmons, C. K.,
Giles, D. A., & Hogan, J. T. (2019). Hidden Markov models reveal temporal
patterns and sex differences in killer whale behavior. *Scientific Reports*
, *9*(1), 1-12.

Behavioral data can be important for effective management of endangered
marine predators, but can be challenging to obtain. We utilized suction
cup-attached biologging tags equipped with stereo hydrophones, triaxial
accelerometers, magnetometers, pressure and temperature sensors, to
characterize the subsurface behavior of an endangered population of killer
whales (*Orcinus orca)*. Tags recorded depth, acoustic and movement
behavior on fish-eating killer whales in the Salish Sea between 2010-2014.
We tested the hypotheses that (a) distinct behavioral states can be
characterized by integrating movement and acoustic variables, (b)
subsurface foraging occurs in bouts, with distinct periods of searching and
capture temporally separated from travel, and (c) the probabilities of
transitioning between behavioral states differ by sex. Using Hidden Markov
modeling of two acoustic and four movement variables, we identified five
temporally distinct behavioral states. Persistence in the same state on a
subsequent dive had the greatest likelihood, with the exception of deep
prey pursuit, indicating that behavior was clustered in time. Additionally,
females spent more time at the surface than males, and engaged in less
foraging behavior. These results reveal significant complexity and sex
differences in subsurface foraging behavior, and underscore the importance
of incorporating behavior into the design of conservation strategies.

Please contact me with any questions.

Jennifer Tennessen

Jennifer B. Tennessen, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Scientist, contractor with Lynker, LLC
Marine Mammal & Seabird Ecology Team, Conservation Biology Division
NOAA/NMFS Northwest Fisheries Science Center
2725 Montlake Blvd East
Seattle, WA 98112
Phone: (206) 860-3473
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