Fin whale movements in the Gulf of California, Mexico, from satellite telemetry

PloS One
M Esther Jiménez LópezBruce Mate

Abstract

Fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) have a global distribution, but the population inhabiting the Gulf of California (GoC) is thought to be geographically and genetically isolated. However, their distribution and movements are poorly known. The goal of this study was to describe fin whale movements for the first time from 11 Argos satellite tags deployed in the southwest GoC in March 2001. A Bayesian Switching State-Space Model was applied to obtain improved locations and to characterize movement behavior as either "area-restricted searching" (indicative of patch residence, ARS) or "transiting" (indicative of moving between patches). Model performance was assessed with convergence diagnostics and by examining the distribution of the deviance and the behavioral parameters from Markov Chain Monte Carlo models. ARS was the predominant mode behavior 83% of the time during both the cool (December-May) and warm seasons (June-November), with slower travel speeds (mean = 0.84 km/h) than during transiting mode (mean = 3.38 km/h). We suggest ARS mode indicates either foraging activities (year around) or reproductive activities during the winter (cool season). We tagged during the cool season, when the whales were located in the Loreto-La ...Continue Reading

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