Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Feeding of Humpback Whales at Low Latitudes of the Southeast Pacific Ocean

Version 1 : Received: 17 December 2020 / Approved: 18 December 2020 / Online: 18 December 2020 (08:25:48 CET)

How to cite: García-Cegarra, A.; Castro, C.; Van Waerebeek, K. Feeding of Humpback Whales at Low Latitudes of the Southeast Pacific Ocean. Preprints 2020, 2020120446 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202012.0446.v1). García-Cegarra, A.; Castro, C.; Van Waerebeek, K. Feeding of Humpback Whales at Low Latitudes of the Southeast Pacific Ocean. Preprints 2020, 2020120446 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202012.0446.v1).

Abstract

Humpback whales perform long migrations from their breeding and nursing areas at low latitudes to feeding grounds at high latitudes. Nonetheless this strictly dichotomous paradigm of migration is challenged by accumulating examples of occasional or regular feeding in tropical or subtropical areas for several stocks worldwide. Here we report multiple lines of evidence of IWC ‘Stock G’ humpback whales feeding in coastal waters at low latitudes of the Southeast Pacific Ocean. Lunge-feeding behavior was observed in Ecuador, while both lunge- and trap-feeding in pursuit of Peruvian anchovy was documented in northern Chile. Five records of substantial defecation in a key breeding ground in Ecuador also demonstrates local foraging. In addition mark-recapture analysis of one individual feeding at high and mid latitudes of Chile suggested potential site fidelity to two foraging areas. Whether these behaviors are novel due to changes in prey distribution, intensifying competition for food from a growing humpback whale population, or rather reflect vastly increased research effort in a poorly studied region, remains unknown. Further research into the feeding ecology of 'Stock G' should help reveal historic and potentially novel feeding grounds, prey composition and precise migration paths.

Subject Areas

Megaptera novaeangliae; feeding grounds; trap-feeding; lunge-feeding; Humboldt Current; Peruvian anchovy; phylopatry

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