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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 662:181-197 (2021)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13596

Differing prey associations and habitat use suggest niche partitioning by fin and humpback whales off Kodiak Island

Abigail McCarthy1,*, Alex De Robertis1, Stan Kotwicki1, Kathy Hough2, Paul Wade1, Christopher Wilson1

1Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 7600 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115, USA
2National Marine Sanctuary Foundation for Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, National Ocean Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 115 East Railroad Avenue, Port Angeles, WA 98362, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Fin Balaenoptera physalus and humpback Megaptera novaeangliae whales share foraging areas and may compete for the same prey, but little is known about the extent to which they partition prey resources. Visual cetacean surveys and simultaneous acoustic-trawl surveys of prey were conducted around 2 submarine canyons off Kodiak Island, Alaska, in 2004 and 2006. Statistical models were used to examine the associations between sightings of fin and humpback whales and measures of their potential prey and environment. Observations and models indicate that fin whales were disproportionately abundant in areas with the highest observed euphausiid concentrations, while humpback whales were abundant at lower euphausiid concentrations and in areas where juvenile walleye pollock were abundant. Fin whales were abundant in the areas where euphausiid biomass was deepest and in the deepest areas surveyed (>150 m depth). In contrast, humpback whales primarily occurred in shallower areas and near more shallowly distributed euphausiids. The different depth and prey affinities of fin and humpback whales suggest niche and habitat partitioning between these 2 co-occurring species. Abundance models built using acoustic estimates of prey density are a useful tool to further understanding of the abundance, distribution, and behavior of these animals.


KEY WORDS: Fisheries acoustics · Cetacean habitat · Niche partitioning · Fin whales · Humpback whales · Euphausiids


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Cite this article as: McCarthy A, De Robertis A, Kotwicki S, Hough K, Wade P, Wilson C (2021) Differing prey associations and habitat use suggest niche partitioning by fin and humpback whales off Kodiak Island. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 662:181-197. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13596

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