We have just published a paper on the humpback whales migrating from multiple 
Oceania breeding grounds, past the Kermadec Islands, New Zealand down to their 
feeding grounds spanning ~4,500km of Southern Ocean.

Riekkola et al. 2018. Application of a multi-disciplinary approach to reveal 
population structure and Southern Ocean feeding grounds of humpback whales. 
Ecological Indicators, 89: 455-465

You can download the paper from this link and the abstract is below:


If you have any questions email me at: r.constant...@auckland.ac.nz

Happy reading

Rochelle (on behalf of all authors)

Rochelle Constantine, Ph.D.
School of Biological Sciences
University of Auckland
Private Bag 92019
New Zealand


Obtaining direct measurements to characterise ecosystem function can be 
hindered by remote or inaccessible regions. Next-generation satellite tags that 
inform increasingly sophisticated movement models, and the miniaturisation of 
animal-borne loggers, have enabled the use of animals as tools to collect 
habitat data in remote environments, such as the Southern Ocean. Research on 
the distribution, habitat use and recovery of Oceania's humpback whales 
(Megaptera novaeangliae) has been constrained by the inaccessibility to their 
Antarctic feeding grounds and the limitations of technology. In this 
multi-disciplinary study, we combine innovative analytical tools to 
comprehensively assess the distribution and population structure of this marine 
predator throughout their entire migratory range. We used genotype and 
photo-identification matches and conducted a genetic mixed-stock analysis to 
identify the breeding ground origins of humpback whales migrating past the 
Kermadec Islands, New Zealand. Satellite tracking data and a state-space model 
were then used to identify the migratory paths and behaviour of 18 whales, and 
to reveal their Antarctic feeding ground destinations. Additionally, we 
conducted progesterone assays and epigenetic aging to determine the pregnancy 
rate and age-profile of the population. Humpback whales passing the Kermadec 
Islands did not assign to a single breeding ground origin, but instead came 
from a range of breeding grounds spanning ?3500?km of ocean. Sampled whales 
ranged from calves to adults of up to 67?years of age, and a pregnancy rate of 
57% was estimated from 30 adult females. The whales migrated to the Southern 
Ocean (straight-line distances of up to 7000?km) and spanned ?4500?km across 
their Antarctic feeding grounds. All fully tracked females with a dependent 
calf (n?=?4) migrated to the Ross Sea region, while 70% of adults without 
calves (n?=?7) travelled further east to the Amundsen and Bellingshausen Seas 
region. By combining multiple research and analytical tools we obtained a 
comprehensive understanding of this wide-ranging, remote population of whales. 
Our results indicate a population recovering from exploitation, and their 
feeding ground distribution serves as an indicator of the resources available 
in these environments. The unexpected Kermadec Islands migratory bottle-neck of 
whales from several breeding grounds, variable distribution patterns by life 
history stage and high pregnancy rates will be important in informing 
conservation and management planning, and for understanding how this, as well 
as other whale populations, might respond to emerging threats such as climate 

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