Migratory marine megafauna generally move vast distances between productive foraging grounds and environmentally stable breeding grounds, but characterizing how they use these habitats to maintain homeostasis and reproduce is difficult. We used isotope analysis of blue whale skin strata (n = 621) and potential prey (n = 300) to examine their migratory and foraging strategies in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Our results suggest that most whales in the northeast Pacific use a mixed income and capital breeding strategy, and use the California Current Ecosystem as their primary summer-fall foraging ground. A subset of individuals exhibited migratory plasticity and spend most of the year in the Gulf of California or Costa Rica Dome, two regions believed to be their primary winter-spring breeding grounds. Isotope data also revealed that whales in the southern Eastern Tropical Pacific generally do not forage in the northeast Pacific, which suggests a north-south population structure with a boundary near the equator.
Busquets-Vass, G., S.D. Newsome, M.A. Pardo, J. Calambokidis, S. Aguíñiga-García, D. Páez-Rosas, J. Gómez-Gutiérrez, L.M. Enríquez-Paredes, and D. Gendron. (2021). Isotope-Based Inferences of the Seasonal Foraging and Migratory Strategies of Blue Whales in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Marine Environmental Research: 105201. doi: 10.1016/j.marenvres.2020.105201Download PDF
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