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Vast assembly of vocal marine mammals from diverse species on fish spawning ground
Wang, D.; Garcia, H.; Huang, W.; Tran, D.D.; Jain, A.D.; Yi, D.H.; Gong, Z.; Jech, J.M.; Godø, O.R.; Makris, N.C.; Ratilal, P. (2016). Vast assembly of vocal marine mammals from diverse species on fish spawning ground. Nature (Lond.) 531(7594): 366-370.
In: Nature: International Weekly Journal of Science. Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 0028-0836, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Authors  Top 
  • Wang, D.
  • Garcia, H.
  • Huang, W.
  • Tran, D.D.
  • Jain, A.D.
  • Yi, D.H.
  • Gong, Z.
  • Jech, J.M.
  • Godø, O.R., more
  • Makris, N.C.
  • Ratilal, P.

    Observing marine mammal (MM) populations continuously in time and space over the immense ocean areas they inhabit is challenging but essential for gathering an unambiguous record of their distribution, as well as understanding their behaviour and interaction with prey species. Here we use passive ocean acoustic waveguide remote sensing (POAWRS) in an important North Atlantic feeding ground to instantaneously detect, localize and classify MM vocalizations from diverse species over an approximately 100,000?km2 region. More than eight species of vocal MMs are found to spatially converge on fish spawning areas containing massive densely populated herring shoals at night-time, and diffuse herring distributions during daytime. We find the vocal MMs divide the enormous fish prey field into species-specific foraging areas with varying degrees of spatial overlap, maintained for at least two weeks of the herring spawning period. The recorded vocalization rates are diel (24?h)-dependent for all MM species, with some significantly more vocal at night and others more vocal during the day. The four key baleen whale species of the region: fin, humpback, blue and minke have vocalization rate trends that are highly correlated to trends in fish shoaling density and to each other over the diel cycle. These results reveal the temporospatial dynamics of combined multi-species MM foraging activities in the vicinity of an extensive fish prey field that forms a massive ecological hotspot, and would be unattainable with conventional methodologies. Understanding MM behaviour and distributions is essential for management of marine ecosystems and for accessing anthropogenic impacts on these protected marine species.

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