Inter-Research > MEPS > v668 > p133-148  
MEPS
Marine Ecology Progress Series

via Mailchimp

MEPS 668:133-148 (2021)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13716

Acute and chronic behavioral effects of kelp gull micropredation on southern right whale mother-calf pairs off Península Valdés, Argentina

Taylor R. Azizeh1,*, Kate R. Sprogis1,2, Raquel Soley3, Mia L. K. Nielsen4, Marcela M. Uhart5,6, Mariano Sironi3,5,7, Carina F. Marón3,8, Lars Bejder1,2,9, Peter T. Madsen1, Fredrik Christiansen1,2,10

1Zoophysiology, Department of Biology, Aarhus University, Aarhus 8000, Denmark
2Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems, Harry Butler Institute, Murdoch University, Murdoch, 6150 Western Australia, Australia
3Instituto de Conservación de Ballenas, Buenos Aires 1429, Argentina
4Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour, University of Exeter, Exeter EX4 4QG, UK
5Southern Right Whale Health Monitoring Program, Puerto Madryn 9120, Chubut, Argentina
6Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California Davis, Davis, California 95616, USA
7Diversidad Biológica IV, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Córdoba 5000, Argentina
8Ecología, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas, Físicas y Naturales (FCEFyN), Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Córdoba 5000, Argentina
9Marine Mammal Research Program, Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, University of Hawai’i at Manoa, Hawai’i 96744, USA
10Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, Aarhus 8000, Denmark
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Kelp gulls Larus dominicanus (KG) feed on the skin and blubber of living southern right whales Eubalaena australis (SRWs) off Península Valdés (PV), Argentina. The whales respond strongly to KG micropredation by changing their immediate (acute) behavior during attacks and their overall (chronic) surfacing pattern and body posture to minimize gull exposure. The energetic and large-scale behavioral consequences of these attacks are unknown. To address this knowledge gap, we quantified the effect size of both acute (during attacks) and chronic (not during attacks) responses by comparing the respiration rates, swim speed, and nursing behavior of PV SRWs to undisturbed (control) SRW mother-calf pairs in Head of Bight, Australia, using unmanned aerial vehicle focal follows. Even when gulls were not attacking, PV SRW mothers and calves demonstrated ~50 and ~25% higher respiration rates, respectively, than whales in Australia. During attacks, PV calf respiration rates increased by an additional 10%. PV SRW mothers also frequently (>76% of respirations) exhibited irregular breathing postures, causing the whales to potentially expend extra energy by working against their natural buoyancy. Despite no significant increase in average maternal swim speed, 76 and 90% of gull attacks elicited strong behavioral reactions from mothers and calves, respectively. Overall, PV calves spent less time nursing during individual bouts compared to those in Australia but entered suckling position more frequently. Furthermore, kelp gulls seemed to show a preference for attacking previously wounded calves and at a higher rate. These chronic and acute behavioral effects may carry energetic costs, which could have long-term consequences for SRW survival and reproduction.


KEY WORDS: Behavioral disturbance · Micropredation · Respiration rate · Nursing · Swim speed · Unmanned aerial vehicle · Seabird-cetacean interactions


Full text in pdf format
Supplementary material 
Cite this article as: Azizeh TR, Sprogis KR, Soley R, Nielsen MLK and others (2021) Acute and chronic behavioral effects of kelp gull micropredation on southern right whale mother-calf pairs off Península Valdés, Argentina. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 668:133-148. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13716

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