MEPS 457:209-220 (2012)  -  doi:10.3354/meps09708

Synchronous mother and calf foraging behaviour in humpback whales Megaptera novaeangliae: insights from multi-sensor suction cup tags

Reny B. Tyson1,*, Ari S. Friedlaender1, Colin Ware2, Alison K. Stimpert3,4, Douglas P. Nowacek1,5

1Duke University Marine Laboratory, Beaufort, North Carolina 28516, USA
2Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, University of New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire 03824, USA
3Marine Mammal Research Program, Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology, Kailua, Hawai’i 96744, USA
4Naval Postgraduate School, Department of Oceanography, Monterey, California 93943, USA
5Pratt School of Engineering, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina 90271, USA

ABSTRACT: Previously, all inferences regarding fine-scale baleen whale mother−calf relationships have come from surface observations, aerial surveys, or underwater video recordings. On May 19, 2010, we attached high-resolution digital acoustic recording tags (Dtags) to an adult female humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae and her calf in Wilhelmina Bay (Western Antarctic Peninsula) to examine their concurrent diving and foraging behaviour. The Dtags logged ~20 h of concurrent recordings. We used cross-correlation analyses to quantify synchrony between the pair. Dive depth was positively correlated for the duration of the concurrent record and was highest when the calf’s track lagged behind the mother’s by 4.5 s, suggesting that the calf was ‘following’ its mother. Pitch and heading were positively correlated but to a lesser degree. Both animals executed feeding lunges; however, the mother foraged more intensively than the calf (792 and 118 lunges over 246 and 30 feeding dives, respectively). Also, the mother fed consistently once she initiated feeding at 16:22:00 h until the tag came off, whereas the calf executed 95.76% of its lunges between 17:00:08 and 19:28:21 h, local time. Correlation coefficients calculated per dive were highest when both animals were feeding and lowest when only the mother was feeding. In addition, 84.26 and 79.63% of the calf’s lunges were performed within ±20 s and ±20 m of its mother’s lunges, respectively. Our work describes the first record of a long-term continuous underwater relationship and foraging behaviour of a humpback mother−calf pair.

KEY WORDS: Humpback whale · Mother and calf · Foraging · Synchrony · Antarctica

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Cite this article as: Tyson RB, Friedlaender AS, Ware C, Stimpert AK, Nowacek DP (2012) Synchronous mother and calf foraging behaviour in humpback whales Megaptera novaeangliae: insights from multi-sensor suction cup tags. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 457:209-220

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