[MARMAM] New paper on the identification of a humpback whale breeding ground in the Mariana Archipelago

Marie Hill - NOAA Affiliate marie.hill at noaa.gov
Thu Feb 6 08:44:03 PST 2020


On behalf of my co-authors, I am happy to announce the publication of our
new article in Endangered Species Research entitled "Found: a missing
breeding ground for endangered western North Pacific humpback whales in the
Mariana Archipelago." It is open access and can be downloaded here:
https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01010.

We prepared a web story with the highlights of the study:
https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/feature-story/international-whales-mystery-uncovering-identity-humpback-whales-breeding-mariana
.
Reference:Marie C. Hill*, Amanda L. Bradford, Debbie Steel, C. Scott Baker,
Allan D. Ligon, Adam C. Ü, Jo Marie V. Acebes, Olga A. Filatova, Siri
Hakala, Nozomi Kobayashi, Yukari Morimoto, Haruna Okabe, Ryosuke Okamoto,
Julie Rivers, Takayuki Sato, Olga V. Titova, Robert K. Uyeyama, Erin M.
Oleson
ABSTRACT: Humpback whales *Megaptera novaeangliae* that breed in the
western North Pacific (WNP) are listed as endangered under the US
Endangered Species Act. Previous research in the WNP concluded that the
full extent of humpback whale breeding areas is unknown. Recovering this
endangered population requires identifying all associated breeding grounds
and potential threats in those locations. Prior to 2015, humpback whales
were known to occur in the Mariana Archipelago (within the WNP), but their
population identity and habitat use there were unknown. To determine the
population identity of humpback whales in the Mariana Archipelago and
whether the area serves as a breeding ground for these whales, small-boat
photo-identification and biopsy sampling surveys were conducted in the
southern portion of the archipelago during February and March 2015-2018. A
total of 14 mother-calf pairs and 27 other non-calf whales were
encountered. Seven non-calves were re-sighted in multiple years, including
4 females associated with calves in one or more years. Competitive behavior
was observed in multiple years. Comparisons with other North Pacific
humpback whale catalogs resulted in matches to breeding (Japan and
Philippines) and feeding (Russia) grounds in the WNP. DNA profiling of 28
biopsy samples identified 24 individuals (14 females, 10 males)
representing 7 mitochondrial DNA haplotypes. The haplotype frequencies from
the Mariana Archipelago showed the greatest identity with the Ogasawara
breeding ground and Commander Islands feeding ground in the WNP. This study
establishes the Mariana Archipelago as a breeding area for endangered WNP
humpback whales, which should be considered in ongoing research and
conservation efforts.


Please contact me with questions or help with the files.

________________
Marie C. Hill
Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research
Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center
Protected Species Division - Cetacean Research Program
1845 Wasp Blvd., Bldg. 176, Honolulu, HI 96818
marie.hill at noaa.gov
808-725-5710
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