ESR prepress abstract  -  doi: 10.3354/esr00781

Swimming kinematics and efficiency of entangled North Atlantic right whales

Julie M. van der Hoop*, Douglas P. Nowacek, Michael J. Moore, M. S. Triantafyllou

*Email: jvanderhoop@whoi.edu

ABSTRACT: Marine mammals are streamlined for efficient movement in their relatively viscous fluid environment, and are able to alter their kinematics (i.e. fluke stroke frequency, amplitude, or both) in response to changes in force balance. Entanglement in fishing gear adds significant drag and buoyant forces that can impact swimming behaviors across a range of timescales. We deployed biologging tags during the disentanglement of 2 North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis; Egs 3911 and 4057) to (1) examine how their kinematics changed in response to drag and buoyancy from entanglement in fishing gear, and (2) calculate resultant changes in swimming efficiency for 1 individual (Eg 3911). We observed variable responses in dive behaviour, but neither whale appeared to exploit added buoyancy to reduce energy expenditure. While some of the observed changes in behavior were individually specific, some swimming kinematics were consistently modulated in response to high drag and buoyancy associated with entangling gear, affecting thrust production. In high drag and buoyancy conditions, fluke strokes were significantly shorter and more variable in shape, and gliding was less frequent. Thrust and efficiency significantly differed among dive phases. Disentanglement reduced thrust coefficients by ~4 fold, leading to 1.2–1.8 fold lower power (W). Ideal propulsive efficiency was significantly lower when entangled, though we detected no difference in observed propulsive efficiency between the conditions. Similar to carrying heavy objects or changing shoes, we present another condition where animals perceive unique movement constraints over seconds to minutes and develop compensatory strategies, altering their movement accordingly.