First description of migratory behavior of humpback whales from an Antarctic feeding ground to a tropical calving ground

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Background: Despite exhibiting one of the longest migrations in the world, half of the humpback whale migratory cycle has remained unexamined. Until now, no study has provided a continuous description of humpback whale migratory behavior from a feeding ground to a calving ground. We present new information on satellite-derived offshore migratory movements of 16 Breeding Stock G humpback whales from Antarctic feeding grounds to South American calving grounds. Satellite locations were used to demonstrate migratory corridors, while the impact of departure date on migration speed was assessed using a linear regression. A Bayesian hierarchical state–space animal movement model (HSSM) was utilized to investigate the presence of Area Restricted Search (ARS) en route. Results: 35,642 Argos locations from 16 tagged whales from 2012 to 2017 were collected. The 16 whales were tracked for a mean of 38.5 days of migration (range 10–151 days). The length of individually derived tracks ranged from 645 to 6381 km. Humpbacks were widely dispersed geographically during the initial and middle stages of their migration, but convened in two convergence regions near the southernmost point of Chile as well as Peru’s Illescas Peninsula. The state–space model showed almost no instances of ARS along the migratory route. The linear regression assessing whether departure date affected migration speed showed suggestive but inconclusive support for a positive trend between the two variables. Results suggestive of stratification by sex and reproductive status were found for departure date and route choice. Conclusions: This multi-year study sets a baseline against which the effects of climate change on humpback whales can be studied across years and conditions and provides an excellent starting point for the investigation into humpback whale migration.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Modest, M; Irvine, L; Andrews-Goff, V; Gough, W; Johnston, D; Nowacek, D; Pallin, L; Read, A; Moore, RT; Friedlaender, A

Published Date

  • December 1, 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 9 / 1

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2050-3385

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1186/s40317-021-00266-8

Citation Source

  • Scopus