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Baleen whale spatial patterns in the Scotia Sea during January and February 2003

  • Author(s): Sirovic, Ana
  • Hildebrand, John A
  • Thiele, Deborah
  • et al.
Abstract

Different species of baleen whales display distinct spatial distribution patterns in the Scotia Sea during the austral summer. Passive acoustic and visual surveys for baleen whales were conducted aboard the RRS James Clark Ross in the Scotia Sea and around South Georgia in January and February 2003. Identified calls from four species were recorded during the acoustic survey including southern right (Eubalaena australis), blue (Balaenoptera musculus), fin (B. physalus) and humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae). These acoustic data included up calls made by southern right whales, downswept D and tonal calls by blue whales, two possible types of fin whale downswept calls and humpback whale moans and grunts. Visual detections included southern right, fin, humpback and Antarctic minke whales (B. bonaerensis sp.). Most acoustic and visual detections occurred either around South Georgia (southern right and humpback whales) or south of the southern boundary of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) and along the outer edge of the ice pack (southern right, blue, humpback and Antarctic minke whales). Fin whales were the exception, being the only species acoustically and visually detected primarily in the central Scotia Sea, along the southern ACC front. In addition to identifiable calls from these species, two types of probable baleen whale calls were detected: 50Hz upswept and pulsing calls. It is proposed that minke whales may produce the pulsing calls, based on their similarities with minke whale calls recorded in the North Atlantic Ocean. There was an overlap between locations of fin whale sightings and recordings and locations of 50Hz upswept calls in the central Scotia Sea, but these calls were most similar to calls attributed to blue whales in other parts of Antarctica. More study is required to determine if baleen whales produce these two call types, and if so, which species. The efficiency of acoustics and visual surveys varied by species, with blue whales being easier to detect using acoustics, Antarctic minke whales being best detected during visual surveys and other species falling in between these two extremes.

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