[MARMAM] New publication: Summer distribution and habitat preference of beluga whale social groups in the Eastern Beaufort Sea (Mayette et al.)

Alexandra Mayette mayettea at myumanitoba.ca
Thu Mar 30 04:43:24 PDT 2023

Dear MARMAM community,

My co-authors and I are pleased to share this new publication in Arctic Science "Summer distribution and habitat preference of beluga whale social groups in the Eastern Beaufort Sea".

In social animals, group composition can cause variations in individual needs that can influence responses to habitat trade-offs, such as predator exposure or foraging opportunities. The Eastern Beaufort Sea beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas (Pallas, 1776)) form different group types and cover multiple habitat types in summer. This study compares the habitat preference of three beluga social group types: (1) individual belugas, (2) groups of adults, and (3) groups with at least one calf. Observations were collected during aerial surveys in July and August 2019. For each month, beluga distribution was analyzed with hierarchical generalized additive models, as a function of group type and four covariates: sea surface temperature, bathymetry, slope, and distance to the coastline. Group type, water temperature, and bathymetric features best explained beluga distribution. In July, groups of adults preferred the continental shelf, whereas individual belugas and groups with calves preferred the continental slope. In August, groups of adults and groups with calves were found in Amundsen Gulf at similar depths. For both months, individual belugas associated more with deeper and colder areas. The preferences often corresponded to previously published distributions of the beluga's main prey species, suggesting that foraging opportunities and size-related energy requirements strongly influence habitat use.

Publication available open access here: https://cdnsciencepub.com/doi/full/10.1139/as-2022-0035

For any question, you can reach me out at mayettea at myumanitoba.ca<mailto:mayettea at myumanitoba.ca> . Enjoy the read!

Alexandra Mayette, MSc
mayettea at myumanitoba.ca<mailto:mayettea at myumanitoba.ca>
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