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Stimpert A.K.,Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology | Stimpert A.K.,Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey | Mattila D.,Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary | Nosal E.-M.,University of Hawaii at Manoa | Au W.W.L.,Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology
Endangered Species Research | Year: 2013

Despite the importance of young animals to the proliferation of a species, logistic hurdles often prevent the study of individuals' behavior and habitat requirements. This is particularly an issue in the case of cetaceans, which spend a large proportion of their time at depth. We conducted a study to describe the dive behavior of young humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae calves on their breeding grounds in Hawaii, USA. We first implemented and evaluated strategies for approaching whale groups and deploying suction-cup tags (DTAGs), resulting in 3 successful attachments of DTAGs in the winter of 2011. The approach technique that was most successful while minimizing reactions from the whale groups was a passive drift approach. Tagged calves exhibited consistent dives to shallow depths when their groups were stationary, and some deeper dives that approached the ocean bottom, up to 78 m in one case. Mean dive durations ranged from 2.2 to 3.5 min, with calves spending 40% of their time within 3 m of the surface. This is the first study to collect tag data from baleen whale calves less than 6 mo in age and provides habitat use data important for management of this endangered species.

Garrigue C.,British Petroleum | Constantine R.,University of Auckland | Poole M.,Marine Mammal Research | Hauser N.A.N.,Cook Islands Whale Research | And 7 more authors.
Journal of Cetacean Research and Management | Year: 2011

The movement of individual humpback whales between regional breeding grounds of Oceania (South Pacific) was documented by individual identification photographs collected from 1999 to 2004. Photographs were collected with comparable effort across the six years in four primary island breeding grounds: New Caledonia, Tonga (Vava'u) the Cook Islands and French Polynesia (Mo'orea and Rurutu); with smaller effort in adjacent regions: Vanuatu,.Fiji, Samoa, Niue and American Samoa. Interchange among wintering grounds was assessed first with all usable photographs included in each regional catalogue, representing 1,080 regional sightings (including within-region and between-region resightings) of 949 individual whales from Oceania. From this, 28 cases of movement between (mostly adjacent) regions were documented. Previously undocumented interchange was found between regions of central Oceania and the western South Pacific. No individual was sighted in more than two regions during this six-year period. The documented movement between regions was one-directional, except for one individual sighted first in French Polynesia, then in American Samoa and then back in French Polynesia (each in different years). Only one whale was resighted in more than one region during the same winter season. No directional trend was apparent and movement between regions did not seem to be sex specific. A systematic quality control review of all catalogues was then implemented to calculate standardised indices of within-region return and betweenregion interchange, resulting in a quality controlled catalogue of 776 regional sightings of 659 individuals. The standardised indices confirmed that the probability of between-region interchange was low, relative to within-region return, supporting the assumption of multiple management units or stocks in Oceania. The relative isolation of breeding regions and the movement of individuals across the longitudinal borders of Antarctic management Areas V and VI has important implications for the allocation of historical catches from the Antarctic and therefore, for assessing current levels of recovery for breeding stocks.

Apprill A.,Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution | Robbins J.,Center for Coastal Studies | Eren A.M.,Josephine Bay Paul Center | Pack A.A.,University of Hawaii at Hilo | And 7 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

Microbes are now well regarded for their important role in mammalian health. The microbiology of skin - a unique interface between the host and environment - is a major research focus in human health and skin disorders, but is less explored in other mammals. Here, we report on a cross-population study of the skin-associated bacterial community of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae ), and examine the potential for a core bacterial community and its variability with host (endogenous) or geographic/environmental (exogenous) specific factors. Skin biopsies or freshly sloughed skin from 56 individuals were sampled from populations in the North Atlantic, North Pacific and South Pacific oceans and bacteria were characterized using 454 pyrosequencing of SSU rRNA genes. Phylogenetic and statistical analyses revealed the ubiquity and abundance of bacteria belonging to the Flavobacteria genus Tenacibaculum and the Gammaproteobacteria genus Psychrobacter across the whale populations. Scanning electron microscopy of skin indicated that microbial cells colonize the skin surface. Despite the ubiquity of Tenacibaculum and Psychrobater spp., the relative composition of the skin-bacterial community differed significantly by geographic area as well as metabolic state of the animals (feeding versus starving during migration and breeding), suggesting that both exogenous and endogenous factors may play a role in influencing the skin-bacteria. Further, characteristics of the skin bacterial community from these free-swimming individuals were assembled and compared to two entangled and three dead individuals, revealing a decrease in the central or core bacterial community members (Tenacibaculum and Psychrobater spp.), as well as the emergence of potential pathogens in the latter cases. This is the first discovery of a cross-population, shared skin bacterial community. This research suggests that the skin bacteria may be connected to humpback health and immunity and could possibly serve as a useful index for health and skin disorder monitoring of threatened and endangered marine mammals. © 2014 Apprill et al.

Lammers M.O.,Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology | Lammers M.O.,Oceanwide Science Institute | Pack A.A.,University of Hawaii at Hilo | Pack A.A.,Dolphin Institute | And 2 more authors.
Journal of Cetacean Research and Management | Year: 2013

Injury from collisions with vessels is a growing threat worldwide for many species of whales. Thirty seven years of historical records were examined for evidence of vessel collisions with humpback whales in the main Hawaiian Islands. Between 1975 and 2011,68 collisions between vessels and whales were reported including 59 witnessed collisions and 9 observed whale injuries that were consistent with a recent vessel collision. No collisions were immediately lethal. The waters between Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawc, which arc known to have one of the highest concentrations of humpback whales in the Hawaiian Islands, had the highest incidence of collisions. Over 63% of the collisions involved calves and subadults, suggesting a greater susccptability towards collisions among younger animals. The rate of collisions increased significantly over the final twelve breeding seasons of the study and was greater than predicted by the estimated annual increase in the whale population, suggesting that the rising number of reported collisions cannot be explained solely by the annual increase in whale abundance. Although the total number of registered vessels and shipping traffic in Hawaii remained relatively constant between 2000 and 2010, there was a significant increase in the number of vessels between 7.9m and 19.8m in length. Vessels within this size range were also the most commonly involved in collisions during the study period, accounting for approximately two thirds of recorded incidents. It is concluded that from 1975-2011, there was a significant increase in reports of non-Icthal collisions between vessels and humpback whales, especially calves and subadults, in the main Hawaiian Islands that likely reflects a combination of factors including the recovery of the population of North Pacific humpback whales, increases in traffic of particular vessel types, and increased reporting practices by operators of vessels.

Robbins J.,Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies | Rosa L.D.,Projeto Baleias Brazilian Antarctic Program | Rosa L.D.,University of British Columbia | Rosa L.D.,Grande Rio University | And 8 more authors.
Endangered Species Research | Year: 2011

Humpback whales Megaptera novaeangliae are seasonal migrants that mate and calve at low latitudes and feed at mid-to high latitudes. Connections between most Southern Hemisphere breeding and feeding areas are not well understood, but are critical for assessing stock structure and human impacts. Photo-identification was performed to identify the feeding grounds of an Endangered sub-population that breeds in the central South Pacific Ocean (CSP). Identification photographs were obtained from 159 ind. at American Samoa and compared to 3508 Southern Hemisphere humpback whales in the Antarctic Humpback Whale Catalogue (AHWC), including 1352 from Antarctic feeding grounds. Two individuals from American Samoa were seen on 3 occasions at the Antarctic Peninsula. This is the first known feeding site for American Samoa and one of few reliably identified for the CSP. AHWC #2950 was confirmed to have undertaken a round-trip movement of no less than 18 840 km, spanning 108 longitudinal degrees. This represents the largest mammalian migration known to date and a departure from historical assumptions about CSP migratory patterns. The frequency, causes, and fitness implications of such movements have yet to be determined. However, distance is the only known extrinsic barrier to humpback whale movement within oceans, and so maximum individual range is 1 factor potentially affecting population exchange and colonization of new habitats. The movement documented here may place this Endangered sub-population at risk if conservation efforts are relaxed in unidentified parts of its range. Yet, the ability of humpback whales to undertake such extensive movements may have also contributed to the apparent recovery of some populations versus other historically exploited whale species. © Inter-Research 2011.

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