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Spatial-temporal patterns in intra-annual gray whale foraging: Characterizing interactions between predators and prey in Clayquot Sound, British Columbia, Canada

Authors

  • T. A. Nelson,

    1. Spatial Pattern Analysis and Research (SPAR) Laboratory, Department of Geography, University of Victoria, P. O. Box 3060, Victoria, British Columbia V8W 3R4, Canada E-mail: trisalyn@uvic.ca
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  • D. A. Duffus,

    1. Whale Research Laboratory, Department of Geography, University of Victoria, P. O. Box 3060, Victoria, British Columbia V8W 3R4, Canada
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  • C. Robertson,

    1. Spatial Pattern Analysis and Research (SPAR) Laboratory, Department of Geography, University of Victoria, P. O. Box 3060, Victoria, British Columbia V8W 3R4, Canada
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  • L. J. Feyrer

    1. Whale Research Laboratory, Department of Geography, University of Victoria, P. O. Box 3060, Victoria, British Columbia V8W 3R4, Canada
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Abstract

In Clayquot Sound, British Columbia, gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) forage primarily on mysids (Family Mysideae) and also on crab larvae (Family Porcellanidae) that are constrained to specific habitat, which relate to bathymetric depths. In this paper we characterize the interactions of gray whales and their prey by analyzing fine scale spatial-temporal patterns in foraging gray whale distribution within a season. Kernel density estimators are applied to two seasons (1998 and 2002) of high-resolution data on foraging by gray whales. By partitioning data from each foraging season into several time periods (12 in 1998 and 11 in 2002), using a temporal autocorrelation function, and generating kernel density estimated surfaces for each time period, it is possible to identify discrete areas of increasing and declining foraging effort. Our results indicate that gray whales forage on mysids throughout a season and opportunistically forage on crab larvae. The episodic crab larvae feeding may reduce, but not eliminate, pressure to mysid populations enabling mysids to reassemble swarms and continue to support gray whale foraging in the latter part of the season. Results suggest that when managing marine environments, gray whale populations require multiple and connected habitats for summer foraging.

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