Líffræðifélag Íslands - biologia.is
Líffræðiráðstefnan 2019

Erindi/veggspjald / Talk/poster V43

Seasonal prey preference of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in sub-arctic waters of Iceland based on stable isotope analysis

Höfundar / Authors: Þóra Margrét Bergsveinsdóttir, Edda Elísabet Magnúsdóttir

Starfsvettvangur / Affiliations: 1. Uppsalaháskóli, 2. Háskóli Íslands

Kynnir / Presenter: Þóra Margrét Bergsveinsdóttir

For most humpback whales, the summers are spent at high-latitude feeding grounds while the winters are spent on warmer tropical breeding grounds. Until recently, their behaviour was believed to be largely discrete between the breeding and feeding grounds but recent studies have shown continual occurrence in sub-arctic waters during winter. Males also engage in singing in those areas. The purpose of this male breeding display so far from their breeding grounds is unknown.
The aim of this study, which is still in progress, is to provide new information on the life history strategy of humpback whales in terms of trade-offs between growth, survival and reproduction on a polar feeding ground. This particular part of the study aims to investigate the foraging strategy of humpback whales during winter with comparison to summer. This will be done with stable isotope analysis using ectoderm tissue samples. Samples will be analysed in November in collaboration with Professor Alex Aguilar at the University of Barcelona. Biopsy samples are being collected in Icelandic coastal waters during winter, spring, summer and fall using an ARTS gun with hollow tipped darts. Prey samples will also be analysed to evaluate the trophic level of different prey species.
The results can provide us with knowledge about how prey availability may contribute to the trade-off strategy of humpback whales and provide an insight into how these animals might respond to rapidly changing ecosystems.