[MARMAM] New Paper: Sex-and age-specific migratory strategies of blue whales in the northeast Pacific Ocean (Busquets-Vass, Geraldine)

Geraldine Busquets geraldine.busquets at gmail.com
Fri Sep 2 10:50:35 PDT 2022

Dear MARMAM recipients,
New open access paper in Frontiers in Marine Science:
Authors: Christina Blevins, Geraldine Busquets-Vass, Mario A. Pardo, Diane
Gendron, Jeff Knut Jacobsen, Francisco Gómez-Díaz, Héctor Pérez-Puig,
Christian Daniel Ortega-Ortiz, Gisela Heckel, Jorge Urbán R, Lorena
Viloria-Gómora, Seth D. Newsome, published in Frontiers in Marine Science,
section Marine Megafauna.

Title: “Sex-and age-specific migratory strategies of blue whales in the
northeast Pacific Ocean”
Abstract: Migration is a complex behavior that has evolved in multiple
taxonomic groups as a means of accessing productive foraging grounds and
environmentally stable areas suitable for reproduction. For migratory
whales that forage throughout the year because of their high energetic
demands, changes in the abundance of prey in different areas along their
migratory route(s) can have serious implications for individual fitness and
population viability. Thus, identifying the regions these species use to
forage and breed while evaluating their migratory plasticity at the
individual level can provide key information for their management and
conservation. Serial stable isotope analysis of whale baleen, a
continuously growing but metabolically inert tissue, has proven useful in
generating individual migratory and foraging records over several years
prior to death. We measured carbon (*δ*13C) and nitrogen (*δ*15N) isotope
values along the length of baleen plates collected from thirteen blue
whales of different sex and age classes, representing the largest
collection analyzed to date in the northeast Pacific Ocean. Adult females
exhibited relatively stable seasonal movements between temperate latitude
foraging grounds and subtropical breeding grounds, although two skipped
migration one year and subsequently moved to the same subtropical breeding
ground near the Costa Rica Dome, potentially to give birth. Adult males
exhibited two movement strategies with most remaining at temperate
latitudes for 3-4 years before death, while two migrated to subtropical
breeding grounds. In contrast, movement patterns in juveniles were erratic.
These results are potentially driven by the energetic requirements during
pregnancy and nursing in adult females, intra-specific competition among
adult males, and inexperience in locating prey in juveniles. We also
describe baleen *δ*15N patterns in recently weaned whales (<16.5m) that
reflect switching from the consumption of milk to solid food (krill). In
addition, baleen *δ*13C data suggest that weaned whales continue to use
stored nutrients (blubber) acquired during the nursing period long after
they are weaned. These results broaden our understanding of habitat
selection in this species, highlight the importance of nursing for the
critical period after weaning, and indicate that the Costa Rica Dome is an
important calving region for this endangered population.

Geraldine Busquets Vass

*Research Scholar*

University of New Mexico

Biology Deparment

Albuquerque, NM USA 87131


Laboratory of Marine Macroecology

Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education at Ensenada, La Paz

La Paz, BCS, MEX 23050

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