Inter-Research > MEPS > v643 > p197-217  
MEPS
Marine Ecology Progress Series

via Mailchimp

MEPS 643:197-217 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13356

Seasonal diving and foraging behaviour of Eastern Canada-West Greenland bowhead whales

Sarah M. E. Fortune1,5,*, Steven H. Ferguson2, Andrew W. Trites1, Bernard LeBlanc3, Valerie LeMay4, Justine M. Hudson2, Mark F. Baumgartner5

1Department of Zoology and Marine Mammal Research Unit, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4, Canada
2Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Freshwater Institute, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3T 2N2, Canada
3Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Quebec, Quebec G1K 7Y7, Canada
4Department of Forest Resources Management, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4, Canada
5Biology Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543-1050, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Climate change may affect the foraging success of bowhead whales Balaena mysticetus by altering the diversity and abundance of zooplankton species available as food. However, assessing climate-induced impacts first requires documenting feeding conditions under current environmental conditions. We collected seasonal movement and dive-behaviour data from 25 Eastern Canada-West Greenland bowheads instrumented with time-depth telemetry tags and used state-space models to examine whale movements and dive behaviours. Zooplankton samples were also collected in Cumberland Sound (CS) to determine species composition and biomass. We found that CS was used seasonally by 14 of the 25 tagged whales. Area-restricted movement was the dominant behaviour in CS, suggesting that the tagged whales allocated considerable time to feeding. Prey sampling data suggested that bowheads were exploiting energy-rich Arctic copepods such as Calanus glacialis and C. hyperboreus during summer. Dive behaviour changed seasonally in CS. Most notably, probable feeding dives were substantially shallower during spring and summer compared to fall and winter. These seasonal changes in dive depths likely reflect changes in the vertical distribution of calanoid copepods, which are known to suspend development and overwinter at depth during fall and winter when availability of their phytoplankton prey is presumed to be lower. Overall, CS appears to be an important year-round foraging habitat for bowheads, but is particularly important during the late summer and fall. Whether CS will remain a reliable feeding area for bowhead whales under climate change is not yet known.


KEY WORDS: Balaena mysticetus · Feeding ecology · Zooplankton · State-space modeling · Dive analysis · Satellite telemetry


Full text in pdf format
Supplementary material 
Cite this article as: Fortune SME, Ferguson SH, Trites AW, LeBlanc B, LeMay V, Hudson JM, Baumgartner MF (2020) Seasonal diving and foraging behaviour of Eastern Canada-West Greenland bowhead whales. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 643:197-217. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13356

Export citation
Mail this link - Contents Mailing Lists - RSS
Facebook - - linkedIn