Local and migratory movements of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) satellite-tracked in the North Atlantic Ocean

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Abstract:

North Atlantic humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae (Borowski, 1781)) migrate from high-latitude summer feeding grounds to low-latitude winter breeding grounds along the Antillean Island chain. In the winters and springs of 2008 through 2012, satellite tags were deployed on humpback whales on Silver Bank (Dominican Republic) and in Guadeloupe (French West Indies) breeding areas. Whales were monitored, on average, for 26 days (range = 4–90 days). Some animals remained near their tagging location for multiple days before beginning their northerly migration, yet some visited habitats along the northwestern coast of the Dominican Republic, northern Haiti, the Turks and Caicos islands, and off Anguilla. Individuals monitored during migration headed towards feeding grounds in the Gulf of Maine (USA), Canada, and the eastern North Atlantic (Iceland or Norway). One individual traveled near Bermuda during the migration. This study provides the first detailed description of routes used by North Atlantic humpback whales towards multiple feeding destinations. Additionally, it corroborates previous research showing that individuals from multiple feeding grounds migrate to the Antilles for the breeding season. This study indicates that North Atlantic humpbacks use an area broader than the existing boundaries of marine mammal sanctuaries, which should provide justification for their expansion.

Keywords: Atlantique Nord; North Atlantic; aire de reproduction; breeding ground; déplacements; humpback whale; migration; movements; rorqual à bosse; satellite telemetry; télémétrie par satellite

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1139/cjz-2013-0161

Affiliations: 1: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Marine Mammal Laboratory, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, 7600 Sand Point Way Northeast, Seattle, WA 98115, USA. 2: Presidente de ATEMAR, Asesoría Ambiental y Tecnología Marítima, Calle B #12, Nordesa III, Santo Domingo, Republica Dominicana, CP 11103. 3: University of French West Indies, DYNECAR Marine Lab, Campus de Fouillole 97159, Guadeloupe. 4: Centre de Neurosciences Paris Sud, CNRS UMR 8195, Université de Paris-Sud, 91405 Orsay CEDEX, France.

Publication date: January 1, 2014

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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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