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Title: Humpback whale “super-groups” – A novel low-latitude feeding behaviour of Southern Hemisphere humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in the Benguela Upwelling System
Authors: Findlay, Ken P. 
Seakamela, S. Mduduzi 
Meyer, Michael A. 
Kirkman, Stephen P 
Barendse, Jaco 
Cade, David E 
Hurwitz, David 
Kennedy, Amy S 
Kotze, Pieter G. H 
McCue, Steven A 
Thornton, Meredith 
Vargas-Fonseca, O. Alejandra 
Wilke, Christopher G 
Keywords: Megaptera novaeangliae;Southern Hemisphere;humpback whales;humpback whale mortality;Antarctic krill
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: PLOS ONE
Source: Citation: Findlay KP, Seakamela SM, Mey¨er MA, Kirkman SP, Barendse J, Cade DE, et al. (2017) Humpback whale “super-groups” – A novel lowlatitude feeding behaviour of Southern Hemisphere humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in the Benguela Upwelling System. PLOS ONE, 12(3):1-18. []
Journal: PLoS ONE 12(3), 2017 
Abstract: Southern Hemisphere humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) generally undertake annual migrations from polar summer feeding grounds to winter calving and nursery grounds in subtropical and tropical coastal waters. Evidence for such migrations arises from seasonality of historic whaling catches by latitude, Discovery and natural mark returns, and results of satellite tagging studies. Feeding is generally believed to be limited to the southern polar region, where Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) has been identified as the primary prey item. Non-migrations and / or suspended migrations to the polar feeding grounds have previously been reported from a summer presence of whales in the Benguela System, where feeding on euphausiids (E. lucens), hyperiid amphipods (Themisto gaudichaudii), mantis shrimp (Pterygosquilla armata capensis) and clupeid fish has been described. Three recent research cruises (in October/November 2011, October/November 2014 and October/November 2015) identified large tightly-spaced groups (20 to 200 individuals) of feeding humpback whales aggregated over at least a one-month period across a 220 nautical mile region of the southern Benguela System. Feeding behaviour was identified by lunges, strong milling and repetitive and consecutive diving behaviours, associated bird and seal feeding, defecations and the pungent “fishy” smell of whale blows. Although no dedicated prey sampling could be carried out within the tightly spaced feeding aggregations, observations of E. lucens in the region of groups and the full stomach contents of mantis shrimp from both a co-occurring predatory fish species (Thyrsites atun) and one entangled humpback whale mortality suggest these may be the primary prey items of at least some of the feeding aggregations. Reasons for this recent novel behaviour pattern remain speculative, but may relate to increasing summer humpback whale abundance in the region. These novel, predictable, inter-annual, low latitude feeding events provide considerable potential for further investigation of Southern Hemisphere humpback feeding behaviours in these relatively accessible low-latitude waters.
Description: Article
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0172002
Appears in Collections:Appsc - Journal Articles (DHET subsidised)

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