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Accuracy and precision of archival tag data: a multiple-tagging study conducted on a whale shark (Rhincodon typus) in the Indian Ocean

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Pop-up satellite archival tags (PSATs) are now widely used to document the geographic and vertical movements of large pelagic fishes. These instruments record measurements of ambient light, depth and temperature at regular intervals and the light data are used to compute daily estimates of latitude and longitude. Several methods have been developed to improve those estimates, including the application of Kalman filter models and matching sea surface temperatures (SST) from tags with remotely sensed SSTs. Despite their widespread use, few studies have evaluated the accuracy of raw estimates of location from PSATs or quantified the improvements that may result from refinement techniques. To assess the accuracy of raw and refined estimates of locations from PSATs, we attached two PSATs and one Argos satellite-linked transmitter (SAT tag) to one whale shark (Rhincodon typus) at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia. The root mean square error (RMSE) in raw estimates of location provided by the PSATs was 5.16° latitude and 2.00° longitude. Estimates were more accurate after processing the data with a Kalman filter (RMSE = 2.97° latitude and 0.78° longitude) and most accurate after processing with a Kalman filter model that integrates SST measurements (RMSE = 1.84° latitude and 0.78° longitude). We also assessed the precision of the PSAT-derived locations, and depth and temperature measurements by comparing the data from the two PSATs. Our findings support the use of archival tag data to reconstruct the large-scale movements of marine animals and demonstrate the significant improvements that may result from two refinement techniques.
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Keywords: Rhincodon typus; accuracy; depth; error; pop-up satellite archival tag; precision; temperature; whale shark

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, 2595 Ingraham Street, San Diego, CA 92109, USA 2: Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, 2570 Dole Street, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA 3: Australian Institute of Marine Science, PO Box 40197, Casuarina MC, Darwin, NT 0811, Australia 4: CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, GPO Box 1538, Hobart, TAS 7001, Australia 5: Department of Zoology, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824, USA

Publication date: 2007-11-01

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