[MARMAM] New publication on fine-scale foraging ecology of sperm whales

Marta Guerra martaguerra87 at gmail.com
Sun Oct 10 12:26:26 PDT 2021


Dear MARMAM subscribers,
My colleagues and I would like to announce the publication of the following
article in Marine Mammal Science:

*Fine-scale habitat use of foraging sperm whales is driven by seafloor
topography and water column structure*
Marta Guerra, Stephen M. Dawson, Tamlyn R. Somerford, Elizabeth Slooten,
William J. Rayment

Abstract:

Knowledge of the spatial distribution and habitat preferences of marine
top-predators is essential for monitoring their populations. The summertime
abundance of male sperm whales (parāoa, *Physeter macrocephalus*) at the
Kaikōura Canyon (New Zealand) has almost halved over the last three
decades, possibly reflecting a shift in distribution away from this
foraging ground. To better understand the seasonal drivers of habitat use
by sperm whales, we recorded presence and absence locations of foraging
whales during acoustic-visual surveys, in conjunction with water-column
oceanographic sampling. Season-specific generalized additive models (GAM)
indicated that whale distribution was best predicted by seafloor depth,
thermal stratification in the water-column, and slope gradient and
orientation. Habitat use differed between summer and winter, consistent
with patterns in diving behavior and stable isotope ratios, suggesting
seasonal fluctuations in prey targeted by sperm whales. Our results advance
understanding of fine-scale habitat use by sperm whales, with new insights
into the ecological drivers of seasonal fluctuations in foraging
distribution. Our study demonstrates the importance of quantifying
water-column processes in the study of habitat preferences by deep-diving
predators. We also identify thermal stratification as an oceanographic
feature susceptible to climate change, which could contribute to the
decline in sperm whale abundance at Kaikōura.
The article can be accessed via *http://doi.org/10.1111/mms.12881
<http://doi.org/10.1111/mms.12881>* (subscription), or you can email me at
marta.guerra at otago.ac.nz for a copy of the pdf.

Best wishes,
Marta Guerra
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