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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13350

Variation in dive behavior of Cuvier’s beaked whales with seafloor depth, time-of-day, and lunar illumination

Jay Barlow*, Greg S. Schorr, Erin A. Falcone, David Moretti

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Depth distributions were analyzed from a study of 19 Cuvier’s beaked whales Ziphius cavirostris that were fitted with satellite transmitting tags off southern California. Over 113 000 depth measurements were made over the equivalent of ~200 sampling days. The mean foraging depth was 1182 m (SD = 305 m) and the mean of the maximum depth of all foraging dives is 1427 m (SD = 298 m). Mean foraging depths increased with seafloor depths up to a maximum of ~1300 m at a seafloor depth of 1900 m, but decreased slightly to a mean of ~1200 m at seafloor depths of 2000-4000 m. Near-bottom habitat appears to be important for foraging; whales spent ~30% of their foraging time within 200 m of the bottom at seafloor depths of 1000-2000 m. However, little foraging time was spent near the bottom at seafloor depths greater than 2000 m. The percentage of time spent at near-surface depths (<50 m) was more than twice as high at night (25%) as during the day (12%). Lunar light also appears to affect diving, with 28% of dark nights and only 17% of brightly moon-lit nights spent at these near-surface depths. The apparent avoidance of surface waters during daytime and on brightly moon-lit nights is consistent with avoidance of visual predators. A considerably greater fraction of time was spent foraging at night (24.8%) than during the day (15.7%), possibly due to energetic constraints imposed by predator avoidance during the day.