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Keywords:

  • blue whale;
  • Balaenoptera musculus;
  • satellite telemetry;
  • radio-tracking;
  • feeding;
  • migration

Abstract

The satellite-acquired locations of 10 blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) tagged off southern California with Argos radio tags were used to identify (1) their movements during the late summer feeding season; (2) the routes and rate of travel for individuals on their southern fall migration; and (3) a possible winter calving/breeding area. Whales were tracked from 5.1 to 78.1 d and from 393 to 8,668 km. While in the Southern California Bight, most of the locations for individual whales were either clumped or zigzagged in pattern, suggesting feeding or foraging (searching for prey).

Average speeds ranged from 2.4 to 7.2 km/h. One whale moved north to Cape Mendocino, and four migrated south along the Baja California, Mexico coast, two passing south of Cabo San Lucas on the same day. One of the latter whales traveled an additional 2,959 km south in 30.5 d to within 450 km of the Costa Rican Dome (CRD), an upwelling feature. The timing of this migration suggests the CRD may be a calving/breeding area for North Pacific blue whales. Although blue whales have previously been sighted in the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP), this is the first evidence that whales from the feeding aggregation off California range that far south. The productivity of the CRD may allow blue whales to feed during their winter calving/breeding season, unlike gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) and humpbacks (Megaptera novaeangliae) which fast during that period.