[MARMAM] New publication on bowhead whale seasonal diving and foraging behaviour

Fortune, Sarah s.fortune at oceans.ubc.ca
Fri Jun 19 10:23:28 PDT 2020

Dear colleagues,

My co-authors and I are happy to share our recently published paper on bowhead whale foraging ecology with you.

Fortune SME, Ferguson SH, Trites AW, LeBlanc B, LeMay V, Hudson JM, Baumgartner MF (2020) Seasonal diving and foraging behaviour of Eastern Canada-West Greenland bowhead whales. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 643:197-217. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13356 <https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13356>

ABSTRACT: Climate change may affect the foraging success of bowhead whales Balaena mysticetus by altering the diversity and abundance of zooplankton species available as food. However, assessing climate-induced impacts first requires documenting feeding conditions under current environmental conditions. We collected seasonal movement and dive-behaviour data from 25 Eastern Canada-West Greenland bowheads instrumented with time-depth telemetry tags and used state-space models to examine whale movements and dive behaviours. Zooplankton samples were also collected in Cumberland Sound (CS) to determine species composition and biomass. We found that CS was used seasonally by 14 of the 25 tagged whales. Area-restricted movement was the dominant behaviour in CS, suggesting that the tagged whales allocated considerable time to feeding. Prey sampling data suggested that bowheads were exploiting energy-rich Arctic copepods such as Calanus glacialis and C. hyperboreus during summer. Dive behaviour changed seasonally in CS. Most notably, probable feeding dives were substantially shallower during spring and summer compared to fall and winter. These seasonal changes in dive depths likely reflect changes in the vertical distribution of calanoid copepods, which are known to suspend development and overwinter at depth during fall and winter when availability of their phytoplankton prey is presumed to be lower. Overall, CS appears to be an important year-round foraging habitat for bowheads, but is particularly important during the late summer and fall. Whether CS will remain a reliable feeding area for bowhead whales under climate change is not yet known.

Please let me know if you'd like a PDF copy.

All the best,



Sarah Fortune, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
Marine Mammal Research Unit
Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries
Room 247, AERL, 2202 Main Mall
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, B.C. Canada V6T 1Z4
s.fortune at oceans.ubc.ca

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