SPERM WHALES IN THE GULF OF CALIFORNIA: RESIDENCY, MOVEMENTS, BEHAVIOR, AND THE POSSIBLE INFLUENCE OF VARIATION IN FOOD SUPPLY

Authors


Abstract

Sperm whale movements, residency, population structure, and behavior were investigated in the Gulf of California in 1998 and 1999. Variations in sperm whale movement patterns and behavior were related to changes in prey abundance (jumbo squid, Dosidicus gigas) determined by fishery statistics. Photo-identification data revealed that seven female sperm whales moved into the Gulf of California from the Galapagos Islands, traveling up to 3,803 km. These are among the longest documented movements for female sperm whales. There were significant differences in speed and distance traveled during a dive cycle between 1998 and 1999 (low and high squid abundance). In 1999 there were also significant differences in small-scale movements and behavior between the northern and the southern part of the study area (high and low prey abundance). These results suggest that when food resources are low, sperm whales travel in straighter lines, dive for longer periods, travel larger distances during dive cycles, and at higher speed. In 1999 there were significant differences in time spent socializing in areas of high prey abundance versus areas of low abundance. All of these changes in behavior were consistent with increased foraging effort when squid abundance was low. A high proportion of mature males and first-year calves were observed in the Gulf of California, suggesting that it is an important sperm whale breeding ground.

Ancillary