Migratory insights from singing humpback whales recorded around central New Zealand

Type Article
Date 2020-11
Language English
Author(s) Warren Victoria E.1, 2, Constantine Rochelle1, 3, Noad Michael4, Garrigue Claire5, 6, Garland Ellen C.7
Affiliation(s) 1 : Institute of Marine Science, Leigh Marine Laboratory, University of Auckland, 160 Goat Island Road, Leigh 0985, New Zealand
2 : National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, 301 Evans Bay Parade, Hataitai, Wellington 6021, New Zealand
3 : School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, 3A Symonds Street, Auckland 1010, New Zealand
4 : Cetacean Ecology and Acoustics Laboratories, School of Veterinary Science, The University of Queensland, Australia
5 : UMR Entropie (IRD, Université de La Réunion, Université de la Nouvelle-Calédonie, IFREMER, CNRS) BP A5, 98848 Nouméa, New Caledonia
6 : Opération Cétacés, 98802 Noumea, New Caledonia
7 : Sea Mammal Research Unit, Scottish Oceans Institute, School of Biology, University of St Andrews, Fife KY16 8LB, UK
Source Royal Society Open Science (2054-5703) (The Royal Society), 2020-11 , Vol. 7 , N. 11 , P. 201084 (15p.)
DOI 10.1098/rsos.201084
WOS© Times Cited 11
Keyword(s) passive acoustic monitoring, cultural transmission, humpback whale, migration, vocal learning

The migration routes of wide-ranging species can be difficult to study, particularly at sea. In the western South Pacific, migratory routes of humpback whales between breeding and feeding areas are unclear. Male humpback whales sing a population-specific song, which can be used to match singers on migration to a breeding population. To investigate migratory routes and breeding area connections, passive acoustic recorders were deployed in the central New Zealand migratory corridor (2016); recorded humpback whale song was compared to song from the closest breeding populations of East Australia and New Caledonia (2015–2017). Singing northbound whales migrated past New Zealand from June to August via the east coast of the South Island and Cook Strait. Few song detections were made along the east coast of the North Island. New Zealand song matched New Caledonia song, suggesting a migratory destination, but connectivity to East Australia could not be ruled out. Two song types were present in New Zealand, illustrating the potential for easterly song transmission from East Australia to New Caledonia in this shared migratory corridor. This study enhances our understanding of western South Pacific humpback whale breeding population connectivity, and provides novel insights into the dynamic transmission of song culture.

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