Statistical modeling of baleen and body length at age in bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus)

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Abstract:

We used baleen lengths and age estimates from 175 whales and body lengths and age estimates from 205 whales to test which of several single- and multi-stage growth models best characterized age-specific baleen and body lengths for bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus L., 1758) with the goal of determining which would be best for predicting whale age based on baleen or body length. Previous age estimates were compiled from several techniques, each of which is valid over a relatively limited set of physical characteristics. The best fitting single-stage growth model was a variation of the von Bertalanffy growth model for both baleen and body length data. Based on Bayesian information criterion, the two- and three-stage versions of the von Bertalanffy model fit the data better than did the single-stage models for both baleen and body length. The best baleen length models can be used to estimate expected ages for bowhead whales with up to 300–325 cm baleen, depending on sex, which correspond to age estimates approaching 60 years. The best body length models can be used to estimate expected ages for male bowhead whales up to 14 m, and female bowheads up to 15.5 m or ages up to approximately 40 years.

Keywords: Balaena mysticetus; Gompertz; baleen; baleine boréale; bowhead whale; fanons; growth model; modèle de croissance; von Bertalanffy

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1139/z2012-057

Affiliations: 1: University of Washington, School of Oceanography, Box 357940, Seattle, WA 98195-7940, USA. 2: University of Washington, Department of Statistics, Box 354322, Seattle, WA 98195-4322, USA. 3: Department of Wildlife Management, North Slope Borough, Barrow,  AK 99723, USA.

Publication date: August 23, 2012

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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