Aspects of habitat use patterns of humpback whales in the Abrolhos bank, Brazil, breeding ground

Martins, Cristiane Cavalcante Albuquerque; Morete, Maria Emilia; Coitinho, Márcia Helena Engel; Freitas, Ana Cristina; Secchi, Eduardo Resende; Kinas, Paul Gerhard


The Abrolhos Bank (off the State of Bahia, northeastern Brazil) is the most important breeding and calving ground for humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae, in the western South Atlantic. The area is shallow with a mean depth of 30m and a group of five islands (the Abrolhos Archipelago) is located in the northern portion of the Bank. Data collected from 1992 to 1998 were analysed to identify possible different habitat use patterns by different humpback whale group types. An analysis of variance found differences in the mean water depths where different group types were recorded: single whales, 18.9m (se = 0.505); pairs, 18.6m (se = 0.386); competitive groups, 19.1m (se = 0.573); mother-calf pairs, 15.8m (se = 0.373); mother-calf-principal escort, 14.9m (se = 0.489); and competitive group with mother-calf pair, 16.4m (se = 0.889). With the exception of competitive groups, those containing calves (mother-calf alone or mother-calf-principal escort) occurred in significantly shallower water than non-calf groups (Tukey test, p<0.05). In addition, groups containing calves were found significantly more often nearer the Archipelago (within 4 nautical miles) than other groups (two-sample Kolmogorov-Smirnov test, D = 0.139; 2 = 18.516, p<0.05). Accordingly, a spatially stratified management scheme is recommended in order to protect mother-calf pairs from possible harassment by whale watching operations in the area.

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  • IMEF - Artigos publicados em periódicos