MEPS 562:193-209 (2016)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11951

Satellite telemetry of humpback whales off Madagascar reveals insights on breeding behavior and long-range movements within the southwest Indian Ocean

Salvatore Cerchio1,2,*, Laurène Trudelle3,4,5, Alexandre N. Zerbini6,7,8, Jean-Benoit Charrassin4,Ygor Geyer8, Francois Xavier Mayer9, Norbert Andrianarivelo10, Jean-Luc Jung11, Olivier Adam3,12, Howard C. Rosenbaum13

1New England Aquarium, 1 Central Wharf, Boston, MA 02110, USA
2Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 266 Woods Hole Road, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA
3Bioacoustics Team, Institut de NeuroSciences Paris-Saclay (NeuroPSI), CNRS UMR 8195, Université Paris Sud, 91405 Orsay, France
4Sorbonne Universités (UPMC, Univ. Paris 06)-CNRS-IRD-MNHN, LOCEAN-IPSL, 4 place Jussieu, F-75005 Paris, France
5Biotope, Unité Recherche et Développement, 22 Boulevard Maréchal Foch, BP 58, 34140 Meze, France
6National Marine Mammal Laboratory, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98125, USA
7Cascadia Research Collective, 218 1/2 4th Ave W, Olympia, WA 98501, USA
8Instituto Aqualie, Av. Dr. Paulo Japiassú 714/206, Juiz de Fora, MG 36033-310, Brazil
9Cetamada, Port Barachois, Ambodifotatra BP 5, 515 Sainte Marie, Madagascar
10Institut Halieutique et des Sciences Marines, Université de Toliara, Toliara, Madagascar
11BioGemme Laboratory, Brest, France
12Sorbonne Université, UPMC Univ Paris 06, CNRS UMR 7190, Institut Jean Le Rond d’Alembert, F-75005 Paris, France
13Wildlife Conservation Society, Ocean Giants Program, 2300 Southern Blvd, Bronx, NY 10460, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Humpback whales breeding in the southwest Indian Ocean are thought to exhibit population substructure between Madagascar and east Africa. To investigate regional movements, breeding behavior and habitat utilization, 23 whales were satellite-tagged off Madagascar during peak breeding season off the northeast and southwest coasts. Mean tag duration was 24.2 d (3 to 58 d), during which time no individual remained near the immediate tagging sites and several displayed extensive long-range movements. We applied a switching state-space model to estimate behavioral modes of ‘transiting’ (b-mode approaching 1.0) vs. ‘localized’ (b-mode approaching 2.0) movement. A general linear mixed-effects model indicated females were more likely to display transiting behavior than males (mean b-mode females = 1.27, males = 1.65; p = 0.031). Whales tagged in the northeast displayed localized movements off the central east coast, whereas whales tagged in the southwest did so on the southern coasts, with little overlap. Long-distance movements included north-westerly trajectories to eastern Africa and southerly transits to Walters Shoals and the Crozet Islands. Despite these long-range movements in short periods, no whale travelled to the northwest coast of Madagascar, nor to Mozambique or the Mascarene Islands. These results suggest there may be more interchange between Madagascar and central-east Africa than previously thought, and whales off east and west Madagascar may not use the same habitat within breeding seasons; important findings for defining sub-population structure and conservation management strategy. Furthermore, male mating strategy may involve more localized searching or displaying, whereas females travel more extensively during the breeding season, observations that are consistent with a large-scale lek mating system.


KEY WORDS: Humpback whales · Satellite telemetry · Madagascar · Breeding behavior · Movement patterns · Population structure


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Cite this article as: Cerchio S, Trudelle L, Zerbini AN, Charrassin JB and others (2016) Satellite telemetry of humpback whales off Madagascar reveals insights on breeding behavior and long-range movements within the southwest Indian Ocean. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 562:193-209. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11951

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