Aggregative and feeding thresholds of sympatric rorqual whales within a fjord system

TitleAggregative and feeding thresholds of sympatric rorqual whales within a fjord system
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsKeen E.M
Date Published2017/03
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number2150-8925
Accession NumberWOS:000397102400024
Keywordsaggregative threshold; Balaenoptera physalus; baleen whales; blue; carrying-capacity; feeding; Fin whale; fin whales; fjord; foraging behavior; foraging strategy; humpback whale; humpback whales; marine predator; Megaptera novaeangliae; megaptera-novaeangliae; prey; resource; rorqual; threshold; threshold foraging; western antarctic peninsula

Rorqual whales (f. Balaenopteridae) supposedly respond to increases in prey supply according to both aggregative and feeding thresholds. With the former, they gather in areas above a minimum prey density set by their basal metabolic needs. With the latter, feeding occurs only above a prey density set by the energetic cost of lunge feeding. To compare prey preferences and the two threshold types in sympatric rorquals, I conducted systematic transect surveys and behavioral observations of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) and fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) in a British Columbia fjord system. While multiple prey features were found to influence whale aggregation and feeding, both threshold types were observed in each species' response to krill volume. Humpback response to prey features was less predictable and influenced by more factors than that of fin whales, which appeared to be exclusively euphausivorous and interested in the deepest high-volume krill patches within the deepest channels. Compared with fin whales, humpbacks found higher-volume krill patches and had higher aggregative thresholds, but had lower feeding thresholds. Findings aligned overall with the expectations that aggregative behavior is responsive to local prey supply, while feeding thresholds are governed by less mutable energetic constraints imposed by body size and feeding mode. Both aggregative and feeding threshold responses appeared to be a function of local conditions: As total krill-like backscatter increased, feeding thresholds stabilized (became more nonlinear and more nonrandom), while aggregative thresholds destabilized. All results emphasized the importance of incorporating observations of feeding effort in studies of prey preference and habitat use.

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