[MARMAM] New paper on fine-scale foraging ecology of bowhead whales

Sarah Fortune sarahmefortune at gmail.com
Fri Nov 20 11:29:38 PST 2020

Dear friends and colleagues,

My co-authors and I are happy to share a link (https://rdcu.be/ca4mm) to
our Open Access paper in Scientific Reports on the fine-scale feeding
behaviour and diet of bowhead whales in the Eastern Canadian Arctic.

*Bowhead whales use two foraging strategies in response to fine-scale
differences in zooplankton vertical distribution*

Sarah M. E. Fortune1,2,3*, Steven H. Ferguson2, Andrew W. Trites1, Justine
M. Hudson2 & Mark F. Baumgartner3

As zooplanktivorous predators, bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) must
routinely locate patches of prey that are energy‑rich enough to meet their
metabolic needs. However, little is known about how the quality and
quantity of prey might influence their feeding behaviours. We addressed
this question using a new approach that included: (1) multi‑scale
biologging and unmanned aerial system observations of bowhead whales in
Cumberland Sound, Nunavut (Canada), and (2) an optical plankton counter
(OPC) and net collections to identify and enumerate copepod prey species
through the water column. The OPC data revealed two prey layers comprised
almost exclusively of lipid‑rich calanoid copepods. The deep layer
contained fewer, but larger, particles (10% greater overall biomass) than
the shallow prey layer. Dive data indicated that the whales conducted long
deep Square‑shaped dives (80% of dives; averaging depth of 260.4 m) and
short shallow Square‑shaped dives (16%; averaging depth of 22.5 m) to feed.
The whales tended to dive proportionally more to the greater biomass of
zooplankton that occurred at depth. Combining behavioural recordings with
prey sampling showed a more complex feeding ecology than previously
understood, and provides a means to evaluate the energetic balance of
individuals under current environmental conditions.

Wishing you all the best,

Sarah Fortune
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