Dynamic foraging of a top predator in a seasonal polar marine environment
The seasonal movement of animals at broad spatial scales provides insight into life-history, ecology and conservation. By combining high-resolution satellite-tagged data with hierarchical Bayesian movement models, we can associate spatial patterns of movement with marine animal behavior. We used a multi-state mixture model to describe humpback whale traveling and area-restricted search states as they forage along the West Antarctic Peninsula. We estimated the change in the geography, composition and characteristics of these behavioral states through time. We show that whales later in the austral fall spent more time in movements associated with foraging, traveled at lower speeds between foraging areas, and shifted their distribution northward and inshore. Seasonal changes in movement are likely due to a combination of sea ice advance and regional shifts in the primary prey source. Our study is a step towards dynamic movement models in the marine environment at broad scales.
Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00442-017-3949-6