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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 669:1-16 (2021)  -  DOI:

Sympatry and resource partitioning between the largest krill consumers around the Antarctic Peninsula

Ari S. Friedlaender1,2,*, Trevor Joyce2, David W. Johnston3, Andrew J. Read3, Douglas P. Nowacek3,4, Jeremy A. Goldbogen5, Nick Gales6, John W. Durban2

1Institute for Marine Sciences, University of California Santa Cruz, 115 McAllister Way, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, USA
2Marine Mammal Institute, Oregon State University, 2030 Marine Science Drive, Newport, OR 97365, USA
3Division of Marine Science and Conservation, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University Marine Laboratory, 135 Duke Marine Lab Road, Beaufort, NC 28516, USA
4Pratt School of Engineering, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA
5Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford University, 120 Oceanview Boulevard, Pacific Grove, CA 93950, USA
6Australian Antarctic Division, 203 Channel Highway, Kingston, Tasmania 7050, Australia
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Understanding how closely related, sympatric species distribute themselves relative to their environment is critical to understanding ecosystem structure and function and predicting effects of environmental variation. The Antarctic Peninsula supports high densities of krill and krill consumers; however, the region is warming rapidly, with unknown consequences. Humpback whales Megaptera novaeangliae and Antarctic minke whales Balaenoptera bonaerensis are the largest krill consumers here, yet key data gaps remain about their distribution, behavior, and interactions and how these will be impacted by changing conditions. Using satellite telemetry and novel spatial point-process modeling techniques, we quantified habitat use of each species relative to dynamic environmental variables and determined overlap in core habitat areas during summer months when sea ice is at a minimum. We found that humpback whales ranged broadly over continental shelf waters, utilizing nearshore bays, while minke whales restricted their movements to sheltered bays and areas where ice is present. This presents a scenario where minke whale core habitat overlaps substantially with the broader home ranges of humpback whales. While there is no indication that prey is limiting in this ecosystem, increased overlap between these species may arise as climate-driven changes that affect the extent, timing, and duration of seasonal sea ice decrease the amount of preferred foraging habitat for minke whales while concurrently increasing it for humpback whales. Our results provide the first quantitative assessment of behaviorally based habitat use and sympatry between these 2 krill consumers and offers insight into the potential effects of a rapidly changing environment on the structure and function of a polar ecosystem.

KEY WORDS: Antarctic whales · Humpback whale · Megaptera novaeangliae · Antarctic minke whale · Balaenoptera bonaerensis · Distribution · Satellite telemetry · Animal-movement models · Sympatry

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Cite this article as: Friedlaender AS, Joyce T, Johnston DW, Read AJ and others (2021) Sympatry and resource partitioning between the largest krill consumers around the Antarctic Peninsula. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 669:1-16.

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