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MEPS 657:223-239 (2021)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13543

Estimates of Fuegian sprat consumption by humpback whales in the Magellan Strait feeding area as predicted by a bioenergetic model

Jorge Acevedo1,2,*, Jorge Urbán3

1Centro de Estudios del Cuaternario de Fuego-Patagonia y Antártica, Punta Arenas 6212055, Chile
2Programa de Doctorado Ciencias Marinas y Costeras, Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur, La Paz, BCS 23080, Mexico
3Programa de Investigación de Mamíferos Marinos, Universidad Autónoma de Baja California Sur, La Paz, BCS 23080, Mexico
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Knowing the biomass of prey consumed by a marine predator is a prerequisite for assessing the potential of the predator for competition with fisheries. Here, we estimated the biomass of Fuegian sprat Sprattus fueguensis consumed annually by a small subpopulation of humpback whales Megaptera novaeangliae in the Magellan Strait feeding area. We used a velocity-dependent bioenergetic model that integrates annual energy requirements by sex, age class, and reproductive status, proportion of Fuegian sprat in the diet, and annual population size of whales. The annual energy required in kcal per individual whale was estimated to be 18.88 × 107 for calves, 27.92 × 107 for adults, 30.71 × 107 for pregnant females, and 42.59 × 107 for lactating females. These estimates result in an energy requirement of 19.32 × 109 and 23.41 × 109 for a seasonal abundance of 78 and 96 whales, respectively. Bayesian dietary mixing models predict that Fuegian sprat represented between 27 and 33% of the diet of the whales. This implies that humpback whales remove between 2965 and 3896 t of Fuegian sprat per year during a feeding period of 120 d. However, if estimates are extended to an abundance of 204 humpback whales during the period 2004-2017, the consumption is elevated to 8167-8383 t yr-1. The estimates provided here are useful to apply as input data for consumption by humpback whales in the Fuegian sprat fishery management as well as for conservation plans of this small and vulnerable feeding subpopulation of humpback whales.


KEY WORDS: Bioenergetic model · Prey consumption · Humpback whale · Megaptera novaeangliae · Fuegian sprat · Sprattus fueguensis · Magellan Strait


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Cite this article as: Acevedo J, Urbán J (2021) Estimates of Fuegian sprat consumption by humpback whales in the Magellan Strait feeding area as predicted by a bioenergetic model. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 657:223-239. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13543

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