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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 660:203-216 (2021)  -  DOI:

Residency and movement patterns of Cuvier’s beaked whales Ziphius cavirostris off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, USA

Heather J. Foley1,2,*, Krishna Pacifici2, Robin W. Baird3, Daniel L. Webster3, Zachary T. Swaim1, Andrew J. Read1

1Duke University Marine Laboratory, Duke University, 135 Duke Marine Lab Road, Beaufort, NC 28516, USA
2Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, Program in Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, USA
3Cascadia Research Collective, 218 1/2 West 4th Avenue, Olympia, WA 98501, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Cuvier’s beaked whales Ziphius cavirostris are wide-ranging, deep-diving cetaceans that are particularly sensitive to anthropogenic noise. Current stock assessments assume a single population in the western North Atlantic Ocean, but knowledge of the residency patterns and distribution of the species is currently lacking in the region. Here we describe the spatial ecology of 20 Cuvier’s beaked whales equipped with satellite-linked tags off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, USA, between 2014 and 2017. We applied a hierarchical switching state-space model to filter location estimates and define behavioral states of area-restricted search (ARS) and transit. We used kernel density estimation to identify high use areas, and net squared displacement analyses to assess residency. The vast majority (96%) of locations were classified as ARS behavior, suggesting that tagged whales allocated much of their time to foraging. Maximum net displacement had a sample median of 50 km, and 81% of individual whales were classified as demonstrating a resident, or ‘home range,’ movement pattern. Overall, our research indicates a localized population of Cuvier’s beaked whales occupying the area off Cape Hatteras. The tagged animals demonstrated a small, defined core use area and exhibited little displacement from the region. These patterns of movement and spatial use can inform future conservation and management of this species, which is vulnerable to anthropogenic disturbances caused by several sources, including mid-frequency active sonar and seismic exploration.

KEY WORDS: Cuvier’s beaked whale · Ziphius cavirostris · Satellite telemetry · Residency · Site fidelity · Spatial ecology · Biologging · State-space modeling · Net squared displacement

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Cite this article as: Foley HJ, Pacifici K, Baird RW, Webster DL, Swaim ZT, Read AJ (2021) Residency and movement patterns of Cuvier’s beaked whales Ziphius cavirostris off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, USA. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 660:203-216.

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