[MARMAM] New OA publication: Prolonged maternal care in northern bottlenose whales alters our understanding of beaked whale life history

Laura Joan Feyrer laura.joan at gmail.com
Sat Jul 4 16:17:20 PDT 2020


New open access publication from the Northern Bottlenose Whale Project /
Whitehead Lab

Feyrer LJ, Zhao ST, Whitehead H, Matthews CJ. Prolonged maternal investment
in northern bottlenose whales alters our understanding of beaked whale
reproductive life history. PloS one. 2020 Jun 23;15(6):e0235114.

Nursing and weaning periods are poorly understood in cetaceans due to the
difficulty of assessing underwater behaviour in the wild. However, the
onset and completion of weaning are critical turning points for individual
development and survival, with implications for a species’ life history
including reproductive potential. δ15N and δ13C deposited in odontocete
teeth annuli provide a lifetime record of diet, offering an opportunity to
investigate variation and trends in fundamental biology. While available
reproductive parameters for beaked whales have largely been inferred from
single records of stranded or hunted animals and extrapolated across
species, here we examine the weaning strategy and nursing duration in
northern bottlenose whales (Hyperoodon ampullatus) by measuring stable
isotopes deposited in dentine growth layer groups (GLGs). Using a
collection of H. ampullatus teeth taken from whales killed during the
whaling era (N = 48) and from two stranded specimens, we compared
ontogenetic variation of δ15N and δ13C found in annual GLGs across all
individuals, by sex and by region. We detected age-based trends in both
δ15N and δ13C that are consistent across regions and males and females, and
indicate that nursing is prolonged and weaning does not conclude until
whales are 3–4 years old, substantially later than previous estimates of 1
year. Incorporating a prolonged period of maternal care into H. ampullatus
life history significantly reduces their reproductive potential, with broad
implications for models of beaked whale life history, energetics and the
species’ recovery from whaling.

A copy is freely available at: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0235114

Cheers,

Laura Joan Feyrer
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