A multi-dimensional examination of foraging habitat use by gray whales using long time-series and acoustics data

Date

2022

Authors

Burnham, Rianna E.
Duffus, David A.

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Publisher

Animals

Abstract

Gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) show high site fidelity to feeding and breeding areas. The whales’ annual cycle could be learned or be driven by factors such as prey abundance or ocean conditions. Long-term line transect and photo-identification data were analyzed to consider intraand inter- annual patterns of habitat use and the underlying drivers for foraging areas in Clayoquot Sound, British Columbia. Time series, autocorrelation and weighted means analysis were used on the 20-years of data (1997–2016). A generalized additive model showed that whale use of the area was most strongly influenced by the maximum number of whales, and the date of its occurrence, recorded the previous year. This maximum, when it occurred in the summer, impacted the whale numbers for up to four subsequent years. The annual average number of whales per transect also influenced the proportion of whales known to return in multiple years to forage. Many of these returning whales first used the site to wean and returned in subsequent years to feed. The transect data was also used to contextualize passive acoustic recordings, comparing call type and rate for periods when the whale number, location and social context was known. Calling patterns appeared to be socially derived, with shorter-range knock calls dominant when whales were closer, and lower-frequency moans when foraging occurred when whales were more distant from each other. This suggests that prey-finding and site use may also be influenced by conspecifics.

Description

Keywords

foraging intensity, passive acoustic monitoring, predator-prey, predictive habitat use, site fidelity, top-down forces

Citation

Burnham, R. E. & Duffus, D. A. (2022). “A multi-dimensional examination of foraging habitat use by gray whales using long time-series and acoustics data.” Animals, 12(20), 2735. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani12202735