Salinas, Ecuador
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Guzman H.M.,Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute | Felix F.,Museo de Ballenas | Felix F.,Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador
Aquatic Mammals | Year: 2017

Satellite tags were deployed on 47 humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in Panama and Ecuador between 2009 and 2015 to monitor both short- and long-distance movements within the breeding season. Ultimately, data from 37 animals (23 mothers with a calf and 14 unsexed adults) were included in the assessment. Transmissions were filtered and behavior states defined using a Bayesian state-space model. Mean tag longevity was 14.2 d (SD = 12.43; range: 1 to 70 d), and longevity was significantly longer in mothers (53%) than in unsexed individuals (t test = 2.43, p = 0.02). Based on the extent of their movements, two different habitat use patterns were recognized and referred to as short range (SR) and long range (LR). SR movements were associated mainly with slow, area-restricted movements (ARM) and short periods of fast, directed movement (FDM). LR movements were related mainly to FDM and, in some cases, with short ARM periods. We found significant differences in the proportion of time spent in each behavioral mode and in swim speed between mothers and unsexed individuals (p < 0.01, in all cases). Mothers displaying SR movements stayed in relatively small areas with back and forth movements up to 350 km along the coast; the 95% home range (kernel density) was estimated to be 61,105 km2 in whales from Panama and 26,331 km2 in whales from Ecuador. In mothers displaying LR movements, distribution range was seven times greater in Panama and up to 2.5 times greater in Ecuador. Since tag longevity was not significantly different between SR and LR movements in females (t test = 0.063, p > 0.05), a shift from the nursing to migration phase is a plausible explanation for this increased range. Information from unsexed animals is inconclusive because of the short tracking periods. Mothers were distributed closer to shore than other tagged unsexed individuals, but both types of whales swam into deeper waters mainly during migration. Our results confirm maternal-biased stratification in this population along the entire breeding range. These findings have important implications for coastal management, including reduction of risk posed by human activities such as bycatch, ship strikes, and whale watching.


Fernando F.,Museo de Ballenas | Fernando F.,University of the Pacific of Ecuador | Susana C.,PO Box 09 06 2370 | Susana C.,University of Los Andes, Colombia
Journal of Cetacean Research and Management | Year: 2012

Information on the genetic characterisation of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) wintering off Ecuador (Breeding Stock G) is presented. Mitochondrial DNA was extracted and sequenced from 230 skin samples collected between 2002 and 2008 to establish the genetic diversity of this population. From 182 usable samples, 41 different haplotypes were found, eight of which were new and unique. Haplotype diversity (h ± SD) was estimated to be 0.922 ±0.012 and the nucleotide diversity (π ± SD) 0.019 ± 0.009. A comparison with other areas within the Southeast Pacific (Colombia and Magellan Strait) and the Antarctic Peninsula suggested panmixia within Breeding Stock G, even though significant differentiation was found with Magellan Strait (p < 0.0001 in both FSTand ΦST). An additional analysis with the exact test of population differentiation showed significant differences in haplotype frequencies between breeding areas in Ecuador and southern Colombia (p <0.01), suggesting some level of stratification at breeding grounds as supported by photo-identification studies. The Ecuadorian dataset included haplotypes reported in all three Southern Hemisphere ocean basins indicating recent gene flow within the Southern Hemisphere. The population showed a male-biased sex ratio in adult animals of 2.16:1. Further research and a larger number of samples from breeding areas in the north (Panama and Costa Rica) are required to appropriately assess the extent of structure in this population.


Rosa L.D.,Grande Rio University | Felix F.,Museo de Ballenas | Stevick P.T.,College of the Atlantic | Secchi E.R.,Grande Rio University | And 5 more authors.
Polar Research | Year: 2012

This paper reports on two photo-identified humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) that were sighted in different years in the proximity of the South Orkney Islands, at the boundary between the Scotia and Weddell seas (60°54.5′S-46°40.4′W and 60°42.6′S-45°33′W). One of the whales had been previously sighted off Ecuador, a breeding ground for the eastern South Pacific population. The other whale was subsequently resighted in Bransfield Strait, off the western Antarctic Peninsula, a well-documented feeding ground for the same population. These matches give support to a hypothesis that the area south of the South Orkney Islands is occupied by whales from the eastern South Pacific breeding stock. Consequently, we propose 40°W as a new longitudinal boundary between the feeding grounds associated with the eastern South Pacific and western South Atlantic breeding stocks. © 2012 L. Dalla Rosa et al.


Felix F.,Museo de Ballenas | Castro C.,Pacific Whale Foundation | Laake J.L.,National Marine Mammal Laboratory | Haase B.E.N.,Museo de Ballenas | Scheidat M.,University of Kiel
Journal of Cetacean Research and Management | Year: 2011

Southeastern Pacific humpback whales (Breeding Stock G) breed along the northwestern coast of South America and farther north up to Costa Rica. Photo-identification surveys conducted aboard whalewatching vessels during the migration/breeding season from June to September between 1991 and 2006 off the coast of Ecuador (2 °S, 81 °W) have produced a database of 1,511 individual whales. Comparisons of photographs produced 190 between-year re-sightings of 155 individual whales. Closed and open capture-recapture models were used to estimate abundance and survival. The best estimate of abundance in 2006 with the Chapman modified-Petersen was 6,504 (95% CI: 4,270-9,907; CV = 0.21). Abundance estimates from open population models were considerably lower due to heterogeneity in capture probability which produced a 'transient' effect. Our best estimate of true survival was 0.919 (95% CI: 0.850-0.958). Heterogeneity most likely occurred from inter-annual variation in sampling and unknown structure and variation in the migration timing and corridor. A more extensive collaborative effort including other wintering areas further north as well as integrating breeding-feeding data will help to reduce heterogeneity and increase precision in abundance and survival estimates.


Franks S.E.,Simon Fraser University | Norris D.R.,University of Guelph | Kyser T.K.,Queen's University | Fernandez G.,National Autonomous University of Mexico | And 18 more authors.
Journal of Avian Biology | Year: 2012

Understanding the population dynamics of migratory animals and predicting the consequences of environmental change requires knowing how populations are spatially connected between different periods of the annual cycle. We used stable isotopes to examine patterns of migratory connectivity across the range of the western sandpiper Calidris mauri. First, we developed a winter isotope basemap from stable-hydrogen (δD), -carbon (δ 13C), and -nitrogen (δ 15N) isotopes of feathers grown in wintering areas. δD and δ 15N values from wintering individuals varied with the latitude and longitude of capture location, while δ 13C varied with longitude only. We then tested the ability of the basemap to assign known-origin individuals. Sixty percent of wintering individuals were correctly assigned to their region of origin out of seven possible regions. Finally, we estimated the winter origins of breeding and migrant individuals and compared the resulting empirical distribution against the distribution that would be expected based on patterns of winter relative abundance. For breeding birds, the distribution of winter origins differed from expected only among males in the Yukon-Kuskokwim (Y-K) Delta and Nome, Alaska. Males in the Y-K Delta originated overwhelmingly from western Mexico, while in Nome, there were fewer males from western North America and more from the Baja Peninsula than expected. An unexpectedly high proportion of migrants captured at a stopover site in the interior United States originated from eastern and southern wintering areas, while none originated from western North America. In general, we document substantial mixing between the breeding and wintering populations of both sexes, which will buffer the global population of western sandpipers from the effects of local habitat loss on both breeding and wintering grounds. © 2012 The Authors.


Haase B.,Museo de Ballenas | Alava J.J.,Fundacion Ecuatoriana para el Estudio de Mamiferos Marinos FEMM
Revista brasileira de parasitologia veterinária = Brazilian journal of veterinary parasitology : Órgão Oficial do Colégio Brasileiro de Parasitologia Veterinária | Year: 2014

Chewing lice were collected from small shorebirds (Charadriformes: Scolopacidae) overwintering in foraging grounds of coastal Ecuador. On 27 occasions at least one louse (3.7%) was collected from six host species. Based on external morphological characters, at least two species of chewing lice could be preliminary identified (family: Menoponidae), including Actornithophilus umbrinus (Burmeister, 1842) and Austromenopon sp. A. umbrinus was found in the Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri), Least Sandpiper (C. minutilla), Stilt Sandpiper (C. himantopus), Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus) and Wilson's phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor), while Austromenopon sp. is presumably the first record collected from the Surfbird (Aphriza virgata). These findings indicate that the distribution of these chewing lice species covers at least the regions around the equator (latitude 0°) until the Arctic in the north, but probably also includes the entire winter distribution area of the host species. This is the first study of chewing lice from Ecuador's mainland coast and more research is required to understand the host-parasite ecology and ectoparasitic infection in shorebirds stopping over the region.


Felix F.,Museo de Ballenas | Munoz M.,Museo de Ballenas | FALCONf J.,Fundacion Ecuatoriana Para el Estudio de Mamiferos Marinos | Botero N.,Fundacion Macuaticos Colombia | Haase B.E.N.,Museo de Ballenas
Journal of Cetacean Research and Management | Year: 2011

Southeastern Pacific humpback whales (Breeding Stock G) congregate along the northwest coast of South America during the austral winter (JulyOctober). Information collected from stranded animals for more than a decade in Ecuador and Colombia indicates that entanglement in fishing gear is a major threat for this population during the breeding season. Twelve new cases are reported here of live individual whales entangled in artisanal gillnets on the central coast of Ecuador from 2004 to 2007. The varying severity of the entanglement and the behaviour of the animals involved indicated that they had differing chances of survival. The findings confirm that the problem persists, although the impact on the population is unknown. The necessity of taking conservation measures to reduce the current level of entanglement is reiterated. Creation and training of rescue teams seems an appropriate alternative in the short-term, but in the long-term it will be necessary to design and implement actions with a wider regional scope, since the problem extends also to at least other two neighbouring countries.


Felix F.,Museo de Ballenas | Guzman H.M.,Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Aquatic Mammals | Year: 2014

This paper presents an analysis of the migra-tion movements of Southeast Pacific humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) based on satellite and sighting data. We used informa-tion obtained from six humpback whales tagged off the coast of Ecuador between August and September 2013, and sighting information from oceanographic cruises and seismic prospection studies. Tagged humpback whales were followed along the west coast of South America, and in one case off the Antarctic Peninsula, for between 11 and 72 d. Distance covered by tracked whales was between 920 and 8,670 km. While available sight-ing data indicated that humpback whales follow a coastal route, satellite tracking data show that single adults use a more direct offshore route and mother/calf pairs tend to follow the longer coastal route. A 4-d period of irregular movements by a mother with a calf off central Peru suggested foraging behavior in this area characterized by intense upwelling processes. On the other hand, the humpback whale that reached Antarctic waters by mid-October quickly moved 200 km off the Antarctic Peninsula, probably because the zone was still covered by ice. We also found differ-ences in travel speed between age/sex classes of humpback whales with mother/calf pairs traveling about 30% slower than single adults. The aver-age humpback whale swim speed ranged between 65.5 and 169 km.d-1. Our information provides a first examination of potential routes used by this whale population and highlights the need for a regional approach in appropriately addressing the migratory behavior and threats to the species during its annual migration.


We report a record of a single individual of the Blackish Oystercatcher, Haematopus ater ater (Vieillot and Oudart, 1825), photographed on 7 February 2015 in the Gulf of Guayaquil, Ecuador (02.73° S, 080.22° W). This species regularly occurs along rocky sea coasts, mainly in cold and temperate areas of South America. The record was observed during the warmest season and when an ongoing ENSO event in the Southeast Pacific has been confirmed. We discuss two potential causes for this unusual record: variability of environment conditions and population expansion from the Peruvian population. © 2016 Check List and Authors.


Felix F.,Museo de Ballenas | Botero-Acosta N.,Fundacion Macuaticos Colombia
Marine Ecology Progress Series | Year: 2011

Data on distribution and behaviour of mother-calf pairs of humpback whales Megaptera novaeangliae obtained during the breeding season (June to October) off Ecuador were analysed. The study was carried out between 2001 and 2009 aboard whale-watching boats. A total of 187 groups containing mother-calf pairs were recorded: 124 pairs alone (MC), 44 with an escort whale (MCE) and 18 with 2 or more whales (MC + n). Five environmental variables were used to assess mother-calf distribution with a principal component analysis (PCA). Two variables, depth and time of day, were sufficient to explain heterogeneity. Average depths increased significantly with group size from MC to MC + n groups (p < 0.001), showing that mother-calf social condition would be a function of the depth at which they moved. MC groups were distributed in shallower waters during afternoon hours (p = 0.035), indicating a preference for shelter areas when sea conditions worsened. The proportion of the 3 female-calf group classes remained fairly constant during the season. In 2 MCE groups, the same escort accompanied the pair after 1 and 4 d, indicating some level of stability and/or guarding behaviour. Twenty resightings of 14 different mother-calf groups were recorded, 90% of resightings occurred within 10 d, showing low site fidelity. In coastal waters, a lower proportion of mother-calf pairs was associated with competitive groups than in other breeding areas located in oceanic archipelagos. This is probably because whales breeding in continental shores do not have to enter oceanic waters when moving between sites within the breeding area. Coastal distribution exposes mother-calf pairs to a greater extent than other age classes to anthropogenic activities in coastal waters, which must be taken into account when considering coastal management. © 2011 Inter-Research.

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