Synchronous mother and calf foraging behaviour in Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) : insights from multi-sensor suction cup tags


Previously, all inferences regarding fine-scale baleen whale mother−calf relationships have come from surface observations, aerial surveys, or underwater video recordings. On May 19, 2010, we attached high-resolution digital acoustic recording tags (Dtags) to an adult female humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae and her calf in Wilhelmina Bay (Western Antarctic Peninsula) to examine their concurrent diving and foraging behaviour. The Dtags logged ~20 h of concurrent recordings. We used cross-correlation analyses to quantify synchrony between the pair. Dive depth was positively correlated for the duration of the concurrent record and was highest when the calf’s track lagged behind the mother’s by 4.5 s, suggesting that the calf was ‘following’ its mother. Pitch and heading were positively correlated but to a lesser degree. Both animals executed feeding lunges; however, the mother foraged more intensively than the calf (792 and 118 lunges over 246 and 30 feeding dives, respectively). Also, the mother fed consistently once she initiated feeding at 16:22:00 h until the tag came off, whereas the calf executed 95.76% of its lunges between 17:00:08 and 19:28:21 h, local time. Correlation coefficients calculated per dive were highest when both animals were feeding and lowest when only the mother was feeding. In addition, 84.26 and 79.63% of the calf’s lunges were performed within ±20 s and ±20 m of its mother’s lunges, respectively. Our work describes the first record of a long-term continuous underwater relationship and foraging behaviour of a humpback mother−calf pair.


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping

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Marine Ecology - Progress Series






Inter-Research Science Center

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Journal Article