Sympatry and resource partitioning between the largest krill consumers around the Antarctic Peninsula
Understanding how closely related, sympatric species distribute themselves relative to their environment is critical to understanding ecosystem structure and function and predicting effects of environmental variation. The Antarctic Peninsula supports high densities of krill and krill consumers; however, the region is warming rapidly, with unknown consequences. Humpback whales Megaptera novaeangliae and Antarctic minke whales Balaenoptera bonaerensis are the largest krill consumers here, yet key data gaps remain about their distribution, behavior, and interactions and how these will be impacted by changing conditions. Using satellite telemetry and novel spatial point-process modeling techniques, we quantified habitat use of each species relative to dynamic environmental variables and determined overlap in core habitat areas during summer months when sea ice is at a minimum. We found that humpback whales ranged broadly over continental shelf waters, utilizing nearshore bays, while minke whales restricted their movements to sheltered bays and areas where ice is present. This presents a scenario where minke whale core habitat overlaps substantially with the broader home ranges of humpback whales. While there is no indication that prey is limiting in this ecosystem, increased overlap between these species may arise as climate-driven changes that affect the extent, timing, and duration of seasonal sea ice decrease the amount of preferred foraging habitat for minke whales while concurrently increasing it for humpback whales. Our results provide the first quantitative assessment of behaviorally based habitat use and sympatry between these 2 krill consumers and offers insight into the potential effects of a rapidly changing environment on the structure and function of a polar ecosystem.
Friedlaender, AS; Joyce, T; Johnston, DW; Read, AJ; Nowacek, DP; Goldbogen, JA; Gales, N; Durban, JW
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