[MARMAM] New Publication- From a calf’s perspective: humpback whale nursing behavior on two US feeding grounds

Jenn Tackaberry jenn.tackaberry at gmail.com
Thu Mar 5 22:15:02 PST 2020

My co-authors and I are pleased to announce our new open access publication
in *PeerJ* about humpback whale nursing behavior on the feeding grounds:

Tackaberry JE, Cade DE, Goldbogen JA, Wiley DN, Friedlaender AS, Stimpert
AK. 2020. From a calf’s perspective: humpback whale nursing behavior on two
US feeding grounds. *PeerJ* 8:e8538 https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.8538

Link to full text with videos: https://peerj.com/articles/8538

Nursing influences growth rate and overall health of mammals; however, the
behavior is difficult to study in wild cetaceans because it occurs below
the surface and can thus be misidentified from surface observations.
Nursing has been observed in humpback whales on the breeding and calving
grounds, but the behavior remains unstudied on the feeding grounds. We
instrumented three dependent calves (four total deployments) with combined
video and 3D-accelerometer data loggers (CATS) on two United States feeding
grounds to document nursing events. Two associated mothers were also tagged
to determine if behavior diagnostic of nursing was evident in the mother’s
movement. Animal-borne video was manually analyzed and the average duration
of successful nursing events was 23 s (±7 sd, n = 11). Nursing occurred at
depths between 4.1–64.4 m (along the seafloor) and in close temporal
proximity to foraging events by the mothers, but could not be predicted
solely by relative positions of mother and calf. When combining all calf
deployments, successful nursing was documented eleven times; totaling only
0.3% of 21.0 hours of video. During nursing events, calves had higher
overall dynamic body acceleration (ODBA) and increased fluke-stroke rate
(FSR) compared to non-nursing segments (Mixed effect models, ODBA: F1,107 =
13.57756, p = 0.0004, FSR: F1,107 = 32.31018, p < 0.0001). In contrast,
mothers had lower ODBA and reduced FSR during nursing events compared to
non-nursing segments. These data provide the first characterization of
accelerometer data of humpback whale nursing confirmed by animal-borne
video tags and the first analysis of nursing events on feeding grounds.
This is an important step in understanding the energetic consequences of
lactation while foraging.

Jennifer Tackaberry
Vertebrate Ecology Lab <https://www.mlml.calstate.edu/birdmam/> - Moss
Landing Marine Laboratories
Research Biologist - Cascadia Research Collective
Adjunct Scientist - Center for Coastal Studies <http://coastalstudies.org>
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