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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 423:261-268 (2011)  -  DOI:

Humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae song reveals wintering activity in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

Marc O. Lammers1,2,*, Pollyanna I. Fisher-Pool2, Whitlow W. L. Au1, Carl G. Meyer1, Kevin B. Wong3, Russell E. Brainard3

1Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, University of Hawaii, 46-007 Lilipuna Rd., Kaneohe, Hawaii 96744, USA
2Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, University of Hawaii, 1000 Pope Road, MSB312, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822, USA
3NOAA Fisheries, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, Coral Reef Ecosystem Division, 1125 B Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu, Hawaii 96814, USA

ABSTRACT: The main Hawaiian Islands (MHI) are the principal breeding ground for humpback whales in the North Pacific. Over the past 3 decades, population recovery from whaling-era losses has resulted in a steady increase in the number of whales wintering in Hawaiian waters and a geographic expansion of their distribution in the MHI. Until recently, no existing evidence showed that this expansion included the islands, atolls, and banks of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI). To better understand the occurrence of humpback whales in the NWHI, 9 ecological acoustic recorders (EARs) were deployed at sites throughout the archipelago to record the occurrence of humpback whale song, an indicator of winter breeding activity. Song was found to be prevalent at Maro Reef, Lisianski Island, and French Frigate Shoals but was also recorded at Kure Atoll, Midway Atoll, and Pearl and Hermes Atoll. Both the timing and abundance of song at several locations closely followed trends observed on Oahu, which is one of the MHI, strongly suggesting that humpback whales use the NWHI as a wintering area. This finding is of particular relevance in light of recent suggestions that, based on photo-identification data, a yet undocumented wintering area exists somewhere in the central North Pacific. We propose that the NWHI could be that area.

KEY WORDS: Humpback whale · Acoustics · Hawaiian Islands · Wintering grounds · Ecological acoustic recorder · EAR

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Cite this article as: Lammers MO, Fisher-Pool PI, Au WWL, Meyer CG, Wong KB, Brainard RE (2011) Humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae song reveals wintering activity in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 423:261-268.

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