High suckling rates and acoustic crypsis of humpback whale neonates maximise potential for mother–calf energy transfer
MetadataShow full item record
1. The migration of humpback whales to and from their breeding grounds results in a short, critical time period during which neonatal calves must acquire sufficient energy via suckling from their fasting mothers to survive the long return journey. 2. Understanding neonate suckling behaviour is critical for understanding the energetics and evolution of humpback whale migratory behaviour and for informing conservation efforts, but despite its importance, very little is known about the details, rate and behavioural context of this critical energy transfer. 3. To address this pertinent data gap on calf suckling behaviour, we deployed multi-sensor Dtags on eight humpback whale calves and two mothers allowing us to analyse detailed suckling and acoustic behaviour for a total of 68·8 h. 4. Suckling dives were performed 20·7 ± 7% of the total tagging time with the mothers either resting at the surface or at depth with the calves hanging motionless with roll and pitch angles close to zero. 5. Vocalisations between mother and calf, which included very weak tonal and grunting sounds, were produced more frequently during active dives than suckling dives, suggesting that mechanical stimuli rather than acoustic cues are used to initiate nursing. 6. Use of mechanical cues for initiating suckling and low level vocalisations with an active space of <100 m indicate a strong selection pressure for acoustic crypsis. 7. Such inconspicuous behaviour likely reduces the risk of exposure to eavesdropping predators and male humpback whale escorts that may disrupt the high proportion of time spent nursing and resting, and hence ultimately compromise calf fitness. 8. The small active space of the weak calls between mother and calf is very sensitive to increases in ambient noise from human encroachment thereby increasing the risk of mother–calf separation.
Videsen , S K A , Bejder , L , Johnson , M & Madsen , P T 2017 , ' High suckling rates and acoustic crypsis of humpback whale neonates maximise potential for mother–calf energy transfer ' Functional Ecology , vol. 31 , no. 8 , pp. 1561-1573 . https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2435.12871
© 2017, the Authors, Functional Ecology, British Ecological Society. This work has been made available online in accordance with the publisher’s policies. This is the author created, accepted version manuscript following peer review and may differ slightly from the final published version. The final published version of this work is available at https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2435.12871
DescriptionThis work was funded by a Sir Walter Murdoch Honorary Professorship along with Carlsberg and FNU funding to P.T.M. L.B. was funded by Murdoch University, and M.J. was funded by the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology, Scotland, and by a Marie Curie Career Integration Grant. Data for this paper are deposited in the Dryad Digital Repository https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.m8j17 (Videsen et al. 2017).
Items in the St Andrews Research Repository are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.