[MARMAM] New Publication: Body size data from drone images support a unique Chilean blue whale taxon

Matt Leslie matt.s.leslie at gmail.com
Thu Nov 12 13:55:06 PST 2020

Dear Colleagues,

On behalf of my wonderful co-authors, I am happy to announce this new
publication on Chilean blue whales.

TITLE: Body size data collected non-invasively from drone images indicate a
morphologically distinct Chilean blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) taxon

OPEN ACCESS LINK:  https://www.int-res.com/abstracts/esr/v43/p291-304/

ABSTRACT: The blue whale Balaenoptera musculus (Linnaeus, 1758) was the
target of intense commercial whaling in the 20th century, and current
populations remain drastically below pre-whaling abundances. Reducing
uncertainty in subspecific taxonomy would enable targeted conservation
strategies for the recovery of unique intraspecific diversity. Currently,
there are 2 named blue whale subspecies in the temperate to polar Southern
Hemisphere: the Antarctic blue whale B. m. intermedia and the pygmy blue
whale B. m. brevicauda. These subspecies have distinct morphologies,
genetics, and acoustics. In 2019, the Society for Marine Mammalogy’s
Committee on Taxonomy agreed that evidence supports a third (and presently
unnamed) subspecies of Southern Hemisphere blue whale subspecies, the
Chilean blue whale. Whaling data indicate that the Chilean blue whale is
intermediate in body length between pygmy and Antarctic blue whales. We
collected body size data from blue whales in the Gulfo Corcovado, Chile,
during the austral summers of 2015 and 2017 using aerial photogrammetry
from a remotely controlled drone to test the hypothesis that the Chilean
blue whale is morphologically distinct from other Southern Hemisphere blue
whale subspecies. We found the Chilean whale to be morphologically
intermediate in both overall body length and relative tail length, thereby
joining other diverse data in supporting the Chilean blue whale as a unique
subspecific taxon. Additional photogrammetry studies of Antarctic, pygmy,
and Chilean blue whales will help examine unique morphological variation
within this species of conservation concern. To our knowledge, this is the
first non-invasive small drone study to test a hypothesis for systematic

CITATION: Leslie MS, Perkins-Taylor CM, Durban JW, Moore MJ and others
(2020) Body size data collected non-invasively from drone images indicate a
morphologically distinct Chilean blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) taxon.
Endang Species Res 43:291-304. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01066

Matthew S. Leslie Ph.D.
Department of Biology
Swarthmore College
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