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New insights into prime Southern Ocean forage grounds for thriving Western Australian humpback whales


Bestley, S and Andrews-Goff, V and van Wijk, E and Rintoul, SR and Double, MC and How, J, New insights into prime Southern Ocean forage grounds for thriving Western Australian humpback whales, Scientific Reports, 9, (1) Article 13988. ISSN 2045-2322 (2019) [Refereed Article]

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DOI: doi:10.1038/s41598-019-50497-2


Humpback whale populations migrate extensively between winter breeding grounds and summer feeding grounds, however known links to remote Antarctic feeding grounds remain limited in many cases. New satellite tracks detail humpback whale migration pathways from Western Australia into the Southern Ocean. These highlight a focal feeding area during austral spring and early summer at the southern Kerguelen plateau, in a western boundary current where a sharp northward turn and retroflection of ocean fronts occurs along the eastern plateau edge. The topographic steering of oceanographic features here likely supports a predictable, productive and persistent forage ground. The spatial distribution of whaling catches and Discovery era mark-recaptures confirms the importance of this region to Western Australian humpback whales since at least historical times. Movement modelling discriminates sex-related behaviours, with females moving faster during both transit and resident periods, which may be a consequence of size or indicate differential energetic requirements. Relatively short and directed migratory pathways overall, together with high-quality, reliable forage resources may provide a partial explanation for the ongoing strong recovery demonstrated by this population. The combination of new oceanographic information and movement data provides enhanced understanding of important biological processes, which are relevant within the context of the current spatial management and conservation efforts in the Southern Ocean.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Southern Ocean, Kerguelen plateau, Antarctic Circumpolar Current, humpback whales, migration ecology, movement modelling
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Behavioural ecology
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Coastal and estuarine systems and management
Objective Field:Assessment and management of coastal and estuarine ecosystems
UTAS Author:Bestley, S (Dr Sophie Bestley)
UTAS Author:van Wijk, E (Ms Esmee van Wijk)
UTAS Author:Rintoul, SR (Dr Steve Rintoul)
ID Code:135036
Year Published:2019
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (DE180100828)
Web of Science® Times Cited:18
Deposited By:Ecology and Biodiversity
Deposited On:2019-09-23
Last Modified:2020-01-07
Downloads:22 View Download Statistics

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