ESR 31:177-189 (2016)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00761

Local recruitment of humpback whales in Glacier Bay and Icy Strait, Alaska, over 30 years

Sophie P. Pierszalowski1,*, Christine M. Gabriele2, Debbie J. Steel1, Janet L. Neilson2, Phoebe B. S. Vanselow2, Jennifer A. Cedarleaf3, Janice M. Straley3, C. Scott Baker

1Marine Mammal Institute and Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Oregon State University, Hatfield Marine Science Center, 2030 NE Marine Science Drive, Newport, Oregon 97365, USA
2Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, PO Box 140, Gustavus, Alaska 99826, USA
3University of Alaska Southeast Sitka Campus, 1332 Seward Avenue, Sitka, Alaska 99835, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: We provide new information on the scale at which fidelity and recruitment underlie observed increases in humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae populations. We used photo-identification records and DNA profiles from whales in Glacier Bay and Icy Strait (GBIS), southeastern Alaska (SEAK) to investigate 3 sources of population increase over 33 yr (1973-2005): local GBIS recruitment, recruitment from elsewhere in SEAK, and immigration from outside SEAK. We defined 2 temporal strata for these longitudinal records: ‘founder’ individuals identified from 1973 to 1985 (n = 74; n = 46 with DNA profiles) and ‘contemporary’ individuals identified from 2004 to 2005 (n = 171; n = 118 with DNA profiles). To distinguish between local recruitment and recruitment from elsewhere in SEAK, we estimated the proportion of the contemporary stratum that was either a returning founder or descended from a founder female. After excluding 42 contemporary whales without a known mother or genotype to infer maternity, 73.6% of the contemporary stratum was confirmed or inferred through parentage analysis to be either a returning founder or a descendant of a founder mother. Of the 25 females with genotypes in the founder stratum, 24 (96%) were either represented in the contemporary stratum, had at least 1 descendant in the contemporary stratum, or both. We found no significant differences in microsatellite allele or mtDNA frequencies between the strata, suggesting little or no immigration from other feeding grounds. Our results highlight the importance of local habitat protection for a recovering species with culturally inherited migratory destinations.


KEY WORDS: Megaptera novaeangliae · Recruitment · Fidelity · Population increase · North Pacific


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Cite this article as: Pierszalowski SP, Gabriele CM, Steel DJ, Neilson JL and others (2016) Local recruitment of humpback whales in Glacier Bay and Icy Strait, Alaska, over 30 years. Endang Species Res 31:177-189. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00761

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