Autumn space-use patterns of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in West Greenland

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M. P. Heide-Jørgensen
K. L. Laidre


Five humpback whales were tagged with satellite transmitters on their summer feeding grounds in West Greenland in August between 2002 and 2005. Tracking durations lasted between 13 and 111 days and the locations obtained from the whales provided the first insight on the autumn distribution patterns of this species in West Greenland. Whales demonstrated a consistent pattern of rapid and long-distance movements along the West Greenland coast separated by longer-term, focal area use where feeding occurred. Humpback whales in West Greenland feed on capelin (Mallotus villosus), sand eels (Ammodytes sp.), and krill and these three prey species require different foraging strategies. Generally whales showed high affinity to the coast due to shallow aggregations of capelin. However some use of offshore regions was detected, likely due to concentrations of sand eels. One whale crossed Baffin Bay to Baffin Island, an area not known to support humpback whales. The rapid movements of humpback whales between feeding sites in Greenland and Canada may be a response to variable and dynamic prey resources throughout the summer and autumn seasons.

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