Spatial distribution of Antarctic minke whales (Balaenoptera bonaerensis) in relation to spatial distributions of krill in the Ross Sea, Antarctica

Authors


Correspondence. e-mail: muraseh@affrc.go.jp

Abstract

The spatial distribution of Antarctic minke whales in the Ross Sea with relation to spatial distributions of their prey – krill – was investigated in this study using generalized additive models (GAMs). Spatial distributions of two species of krill (ice and Antarctic krill) were estimated by GAMs. Three abiotic factors – distance from the continental shelf break (800 m isobaths), the mean temperature and salinity from the surface to 200 m (MTEM-200 and MSAL-200), and latitude and longitude – were used as covariates for models of krill. Estimated spatial distributions of krill were then used with other covariates to model the spatial distribution of Antarctic minke whales. In the selected model of Antarctic minke whales, Antarctic krill were more influential than ice krill. The number of Antarctic minke whales increased as the density of Antarctic krill increased to around 1.5 g m−2. Beyond that, the number of Antarctic minke whales decreased as the density of Antarctic krill increased. High densities of the Antarctic minke whales were estimated along the sea ice edge in the eastern part of the Ross Sea. Specifically, the densities were high in the north of the continental shelf break where low MTEM-200 and MSAL-200 and intermediate densities of Antarctic krill were observed. Further data collection is needed to investigate interannual variations and trends in their relationship. The results show that the spatial distribution of Antarctic minke whales is a function of longitude, distance from the shelf break, oceanographic condition (temperature and salinity), and densities of ice and Antarctic krill.

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