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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 620:201-214 (2019)  -  DOI:

Temporal patterns in the acoustic presence of baleen whale species in a presumed breeding area off Namibia

Karolin Thomisch1,*, Olaf Boebel1, Jennifer Bachmann1,2, Diego Filun1, Svenja Neumann1,2, Stefanie Spiesecke1, Ilse Van Opzeeland1,3

1Ocean Acoustics Lab, Alfred-Wegener-Institut Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung, 27570 Bremerhaven, Germany
2University of Bremen, 28359 Bremen, Germany
3Helmholtz-Institute for Functional Marine Biodiversity at the University of Oldenburg (HIFMB), 26129 Oldenburg, Germany
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The eastern Atlantic Ocean is considered to provide important breeding and wintering habitats for several migratory cetacean species. The spatio-temporal distributions and migratory behaviors of cetaceans off southern Africa are nevertheless still poorly understood. This study investigated the temporal patterns of acoustic occurrence of baleen whales in a presumed baleen whale breeding area off Namibia using passive acoustic recordings collected between November 2011 and May 2013. Our results show seasonal acoustic presence of humpback whales Megaptera novaeangliae, fin whales Balaenoptera physalus and Antarctic minke whales B. bonaerensis from November to January and from June to August. Their acoustic absence from February to May possibly indicates that most animals migrated to other areas (presumably in higher latitudes) in austral summer to feed. By contrast, Antarctic blue whales B. musculus intermedia were acoustically present throughout the recording period, indicating that part of the population remains at lower latitudes year-round. Our findings support the presumed ecological importance of the oceanic area off Namibia, providing (part of) a suitable cetacean wintering and, possibly, breeding range or migratory corridor. Furthermore, the occurrence of Antarctic blue and minke whales off Namibia, concurrent with their reported acoustic presence in high-latitude feeding areas, adds to growing evidence that baleen whale migration is not obligate but much more dynamic than has long been assumed.

KEY WORDS: Antarctic blue whales · Antarctic minke whales · Baleen whale breeding grounds · Fin whales · Humpback whales · Migratory behavior · Passive acoustic monitoring · South Atlantic Ocean

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Cite this article as: Thomisch K, Boebel O, Bachmann J, Filun D, Neumann S, Spiesecke S, Van Opzeeland I (2019) Temporal patterns in the acoustic presence of baleen whale species in a presumed breeding area off Namibia. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 620:201-214.

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