Longue Pointe de Mingan, Canada
Longue Pointe de Mingan, Canada

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Kot B.W.,University of California at Los Angeles | Kot B.W.,Mingan Island Cetacean Study Inc. | Sears R.,Mingan Island Cetacean Study Inc. | Zbinden D.,Meriscope Marine Research Station | And 2 more authors.
Marine Mammal Science | Year: 2014

Rorqual whales (Family: Balaenopteridae) are the world's largest predators and sometimes feed near or at the sea surface on small schooling prey. Most rorquals capture prey using a behavioral process known as lunge-feeding that, when occurring at the surface, often exposes the mouth and head above the water. New technology has recently improved historical misconceptions about the natural variation in rorqual lunge-feeding behavior yet missing from the literature is a dedicated study of the identification, use, and evolution of these behaviors when used to capture prey at the surface. Here we present results from a long-term investigation of three rorqual whale species (minke whale, Balaenoptera acutorostrata; fin whale, B. physalus; and blue whale, B. musculus) that helped us develop a standardized classification system of surface lunge-feeding (SLF) behaviors. We then tested for differences in frequency of these behaviors among the three species and across all rorqual species. Our results: (1) propose a unified classification system of six homologous SLF behaviors used by all living rorqual whale species; (2) demonstrate statistically significant differences in the frequency of each behavior by minke, fin, and blue whales; and (3) provide new information regarding the evolution of lunge-feeding behaviors among rorqual whales. © 2014 Society for Marine Mammalogy.

Kot B.W.,Texas A&M University at Galveston | Kot B.W.,Mingan Island Cetacean Study Inc. | Sears R.,Mingan Island Cetacean Study Inc. | Anis A.,Texas A&M University | And 5 more authors.
Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology | Year: 2012

Whale entanglement in fishing gear is a global problem, and underwater ropes associated with this gear are often the cause of injuries that can lead to fatalities. Minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) are especially at risk because they are relatively small, widely distributed, and often occur in coastal habitats where many types of fishing gear are deployed. It is unknown whether minke whales can detect and avoid ropes associated with fishing gear. To address this question we conducted a series of field experiments to measure behavioral responses of nearshore minke whales to underwater ropes simulating crab and whelk fishing gear. We also investigated correlations between whale behaviors and specific environmental variables. Our methods involved both visual and acoustic monitoring of whale behaviors near experimental ropes and buoys of different colors. A remote sensing system was also used to simultaneously monitor oceanographic conditions, record underwater sounds, and capture underwater video of whales swimming near ropes. Minke whales (N = 42) decreased their swimming velocity and altered their bearing when passing near experimental ropes, especially during trials with white and black ropes. Some minkes (N = 7) also altered their underwater swimming trajectories when passing near ropes, and often appeared to produce low-frequency vocalizations. Collectively this information provides strong evidence that minke whales detect and react behaviorally to the presence of underwater ropes that simulate fishing gear in nearshore areas. We hypothesize that visual and perhaps passive acoustic sensory abilities may be the mechanisms behind these rope avoidance behaviors. We recommend that high contrast ropes (white and black) be used with fishing gear in coastal areas to help minimize entanglements of minke and perhaps other whale species. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.

Kot B.W.,University of California at Los Angeles | Kot B.W.,Mingan Island Cetacean Study Inc. | Zbinden D.,University of Basel | Sears R.,Mingan Island Cetacean Study Inc.
Marine and Freshwater Behaviour and Physiology | Year: 2013

This study confirms that the fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) exhibits infrequent aerial behavior and that it sometimes occurs near different types of boats. We describe this uncommon behavior in the wake of a freighter and near other boats, provide details that expand upon an aerial rotation technique briefly noted in fin whales by others, and show that we have observed only three of these aerial events in 33 years of seasonal effort within our study areas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada. Collectively our study contributes new information, including kinematics, about aerial behavior in fin whales and suggests that this behavior is not geographically limited to the Mediterranean Sea where it has been reported most often. © 2013 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.

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