Diving behaviour of adult male white whales (Delphinapterus leucas) in Svalbard, Norway

  • Jade Vacquié-Garcia Norwegian Polar Institute, Fram Centre, Tromsø, Norway
  • Christian Lydersen Norwegian Polar Institute, Fram Centre, Tromsø, Norway
  • Kit M. Kovacs Norwegian Polar Institute, Fram Centre, Tromsø, Norway
Keywords: Arctic, beluga, climate change, environmental change, foraging, travelling

Abstract

White whales (Delphinapterus leucas) in Svalbard remain near the coast much of the year, spending most of their time in front of tidewater glaciers. In this article, the diving behaviour of adult male white whales in Svalbard (N = 16) is presented based on satellite-relay data loggers that record time and depth of diving as well as positions. The loggers transmitted data for an average of 87 ± 52 days (range 2–163 days). After filtering, 55 359 dives were available for the study. Most of the dives were extremely shallow (13 ± 26 m, maximum 350 m) and of short duration (97 ± 123 s, maximum 31.4 min). At tidewater glacier fronts, the white whales optimized their time at the bottom of dives and spent longer periods resting at the surface after dives, in accordance with what would be expected when foraging. This behaviour was also documented when animals were out in the fjords. When the whales moved between areas around the archipelago, they swam close to the coast, staying right below the surface most of the time, presumably to minimize energy expenditure during transits. When sea ice formed during the winter, the whales were forced offshore into somewhat deeper areas with drifting ice. In these areas, the whales minimized time at the surface and dove somewhat deeper, sometimes reaching the bottom, presumably to feed on neritic prey.

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

References


Bailleul F., Lesage V., Power M., Doidge S.W. & Hammill M.O. 2012. Migration phenology of beluga whales in a changing Arctic. Climate Research 53, 169–178, doi: 10.3354/cr01104.


Bailleul F., Pinaud D., Hindell M., Charrassin J.-B. & Guinet C. 2008. Assessment of scale-dependent foraging behaviour in southern elephant seals incorporating the vertical dimension: a development of the First Passage Time method. Journal of Animal Ecology 77, 948–957, doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2656.2008.01407.x.


Berge J., Heggland K., Lonne O.J., Cottier F., Hop H., Gabrielsen G.W., Nottestad L. & Misund O.A. 2015. First records of Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus) from the Svalbard Archipelago, Norway, with possible explanations for the extension of its distribution. Arctic 68, 54–61, doi: 10.14430/arctic4455.


Błaszczyk M., Jania J.A. & Hagen J.O. 2009. Tidewater glaciers of Svalbard: recent changes and estimates of calving fluxes. Polish Polar Research 30, 85–142.


Boehme L., Lovell P., Biuw M., Roquet F., Nicholson J., Thorpe S.E., Meredith M.P. & Fedak M. 2009. Animal-borne CTD-satellite relay data loggers for real-time oceanographic data collection. Ocean Science 5, 685–695, doi: 10.5194/os-5-685-2009.


Carbone C. & Houston A.I. 1996. The optimal allocation of time over the dive cycle: an approach based on aerobic and anaerobic respiration. Animal Behaviour 51, 1247−1255 doi: 10.1006/anbe.1996.0129.


Cottier F.R., Nilsen F., Inal M.E., Gerland S., Tverberg V. & Svendsen H. 2007. Wintertime warming of an Arctic shelf in response to large-scale atmospheric circulation. Geophysical Research Letters 34, L10607, doi: 10.1029/2007GL029948.


Croxall J.P., Everson I., Kooyman G.L., Ricketts C. & Davis R.W. 1985. Fur seal diving behavior in relation to vertical distribution of krill. Journal of Animal Ecology 54, 1–8, doi: 10.2307/4616.


Dahl T.M., Lydersen C., Kovacs K.M., Falk-Petersen S., Sargent J., Gjertz I. & Gulliksen B. 2000. Fatty acid composition of the blubber in white whales (Delphinapterus leucas). Polar Biology 23, 401–409, doi: 10.1007/s003000050461.


Descamps S., Aars J., Fuglei E., Kovacs K.M., Lydersen C., Pavlova O., Pedersen A.O., Ravolainen V. & Strøm H. 2017. Climate change impacts on wildlife in a High Arctic Archipelago. Global Change Biology 23, 490–502, doi: 10.1111/gcb.13381.


Fedak M.A., Lovell P. & Grant S.M. 2001. Two approaches to compressing and interpreting time-depth information as collected by time-depth recorders and satellite-linked data recorders. Marine Mammal Science 17, 94–110, doi: 10.1111/j.1748-7692.2001.tb00982.x.


Fedak M., Lovell P., McConnell B. & Hunter C. 2002. Overcoming the constraints of long range telemetry from animals: getting more useful data from smaller packages. Integrative and Comparative Biology 42, 3–10, doi: 10.1093/icb/42.1.3.


Fish F.E. 1996. Transitions from drag-based to lift-based propulsion in mammalian swimming. American Zoologist 36, 628–641, doi: 10.1093/icb/36.6.628.


Fossheim M., Primicerio R., Johannesen E., Ingvaldsen R.B., Aschan M. & Dolgov A.V. 2015. Recent warming leads to a rapid borealization of fish communities in the Arctic. Nature Climate Change 5, 673–677, doi: 10.1038/NCLIMATE2647.


Freitas C., Lydersen C., Fedak M.A. & Kovacs K.M. 2008. A simple new algorithm to filter marine mammal Argos locations. Marine Mammal Science 24, 315–325, doi: 10.1111/j.1748-7692.2007.00180.x.


Hamilton C., Vacquié-Garcia J., Kovacs K.M., Ims R.A., Kohler J. & Lydersen C. 2019. Contrasting changes in space use induced by climate change in two Arctic marine mammal species. Biology Letters 15, article no. 20180834, doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2018.0834.


Hauser D.D.W., Laidre K.L., Parker-Stetter S.L., Horne J.K., Suydam R.S. & Richard P.R. 2015. Regional diving behavior of Pacific Arctic beluga whales Delphinapterus leucas and possible associations with prey. Marine Ecology Progress Series 541, 245–264, doi: 10.3354/meps11530.


Hauser D.D.W., Laidre K.L., Stern H.L., Moore S.E., Suydam R.S. & Pichard P.R. 2017. Habitat selection by two beluga whale populations in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. PLoS One 12(2), e0172755, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0172755.


Heide-Jørgensen M.P., Hammeken N., Dietz R., Orr J. & Richard P.R. 2001. Surfacing times and dive rates for narwhals (Monodon monoceros) and belugas (Delphinapterus leucas). Arctic 51, 284–298, doi: 10.14430/arctic788.


Heide-Jørgensen M.P. & Laidre K.L. 2004. Declining extent of open-water refugia for top predators in Baffin Bay and adjacent waters. Ambio 33, 487–494, doi: 10.1639/0044-7447(2004)033[0487:DEOORF]2.0.CO;2.


Heide-Jørgensen M.P., Richard P.R. & Rosing-Asvid A. 1998. Dive patterns of belugas (Delphinapterus leucas) in waters near eastern Devon Island. Arctic 51, 17–26, doi: 10.14430/arctic1041.


Hertel H. 1966. Structure, form and movement. New York: Rheinhold.


Hindle A.G., Rosen D.A.S. & Trites A.W. 2010. Swimming depth and ocean currents affect transit costs in Steller sea lions Eumetopias jubatus. Aquatic Biology 10, 139–148, doi: 10.3354/ab00279.


Jakobsson M., Mayer L.A., Coakley B., Dowdeswell J.A., Forbes S., Fridman B., Hodnesdal H., Noormets R., Pedersen R., Rebesco M., Schenke H.W., Zarayskaya Y., Accettella D., Armstrong A., Anderson R.M., Bienhoff P., Camerlenghi A., Church I., Edwards M., Gardner J.V., Hall J.K., Hell B., Hestvik O.B., Kristoffersen Y., Marcussen C., Mohammad R., Mosher D., Nghiem S.V., Pedrosa M.T., Travaglini P.G. & Weatherall P. 2012. The International Bathymetric Chart of the Arctic Ocean (IBCAO) version 3.0. Geophysical Research Letters 39, article no. L12609, doi: 10.1029/2012GL052219.


Kingsley M.C.S., Gosselin S. & Sleno G.A. 2001. Movements and dive behaviour of belugas in northern Quebec. Arctic 54, 262–275, doi: 10.14430/arctic786.


Kovacs K.M., Moore S., Overland J.E. & Lydersen C. 2011. Impacts of changing sea ice conditions on Arctic marine mammals. Marine Biodiversity 41, 181−194, doi: 10.1007/s12526-010-0061-0.


Laidre K.L. & Heide-Jørgensen M.P. 2005. Arctic sea ice trends and narwhal vulnerability. Biological Conservation 121, 509–517, doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2004.06.003.


Laidre K.L., Heide-Jørgensen M.P., Stern H. & Richard P. 2012. Unusual narwhal sea ice entrapments and delayed autumn freeze-up trends. Polar Biology 35, 149–154, doi: 10.1007/s00300-011-1036-8.


Lebart L., Morineau A. & Piron M. 1997. Statistique exploratoire multidimensionnelle. (Multidimensional exploratory statistics.) 6th edn. Paris: Dunod.


Lesage V., Hammill M.O. & Kovacs K.M. 1999. Functional classification of harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) dives using depth profiles, swimming velocity, and an index of foraging success. Canadian Journal of Zoology 77, 74–87, doi: 10.1139/cjz-77-1-74.


Lemieux Lefebvre S.L., Lesage V., Michaud R. & Humphries M.M. 2018. Classifying and combining herd surface activities and individual dive profiles to identify summer behaviours of beluga (Delphinapterus leucas) from the St. Lawrence Estuary, Canada. Canadian Journal of Zoology 96, 393–410, doi: 10.1139/cjz-2017-0015.


Lowry L., Reeves R. & Laidre K. 2017. Delphinapterus leucas. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: T6335A50352346. Accessed on the internet at https://doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T6335A50352346.en on 13 November 2019.


Lowther A.D., Lydersen C., Fedak M.A., Lovell P. & Kovacs K.M. 2015. The Argos-CLS Kalman filter: error structures and state-space modelling relative to Fastloc GPS data. PLoS One 10(4), e0124754, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0124754.


Lydersen C., Assmy P., Falk-Petersen S., Kohler J., Kovacs K.M., Reigstad M., Steen H., Strom H., Sundfjord A., Varpe O., Walczowski W., Weslawski J.M. & Zajaczkowski M. 2014. The importance of tidewater glaciers for marine mammals and seabirds in Svalbard, Norway. Journal of Marine Systems 129, 452–471, doi: 10.1016/j.jmarsys.2013.09.006.


Lydersen C., Martin A.R., Kovacs K.M. & Gjertz I. 2001. Summer and autumn movements of white whales Delphinapterus leucas in Svalbard, Norway. Marine Ecology Progress Series 219, 265–274, doi: 10.3354/meps219265.


Lydersen C., Nøst O.A., Lovell P., McConnell B.J., Gammelsrod T., Hunter C., Fedak M.A. & Kovacs K.M. 2002. Salinity and temperature structure of a freezing Arctic fjord—monitored by white whales (Delphinapterus leucas). Geophysical Research Letters 29, article no. 2119, doi: 10.1029/2002GL015462.


Martin A.R., Hall P. & Richard P.R. 2001. Dive behaviour of belugas (Delphinapterus leucas) in the shallow waters of western Hudson Bay. Arctic 54, 276–283, doi: 10.14430/arctic787.


Martin A.R. & Smith T.G. 1992. Deep diving in wild, free-ranging beluga whales, Delphinapterus leucas. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 49, 462–466, doi: 10.1139/f92-055.


Martin A.R. & Smith T.G. 1999. Strategy and capability of wild belugas Delphinapterus leucas during deep, benthic diving. Canadian Journal of Zoology 77, 1783–1793, doi: 10.1139/cjz-77-11-1783.


Martin A.R., Smith T.G. & Cox O.P. 1993. Studying the behaviour and movements of High Arctic belugas with satellite telemetry. Symposia of the Zoological Society of London 66, 195–210.


Martin A.R., Smith T.G. & Cox O.P. 1998. Dive form and function in belugas Delphinapterus leucas of the eastern Canadian High Arctic. Polar Biology 20, 218–228, doi: 10.1007/s003000050299.


Moore S.E., Shelden K.E.W., Litzky L.K., Mahoney B.A. & Rugh D.J. 2000. Beluga whale, Delphinapterus leucas, habitat associations in Cook Inlet, Alaska. Marine Fisheries Review 62, 60–80.


Mori Y. 1998. The optimal patch use in divers: optimal time budget and the number of dive cycles during bout. Journal of Theoretical Biology 190, 187−199, doi: 10.1006/jtbi.1997.0550.


O’Corry-Crowe G. 2018. Beluga whale. In B. Würsig et al. (eds.): Encyclopedia of marine mammals. Pp. 93–96. New York: Academic Press.


R Development Core Team 2010. A language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing.


Reeves R.R., Ewins P.J., Agbayani S., Heide-Jørgensen M.P., Kovacs K.M., Lydersen C., Suydam R., Elliott W., Polet G., van Dijk Y. & Blijleven R. 2014. Distribution of endemic cetaceans in relation to hydrocarbon development and commercial shipping in a warming Arctic. Marine Policy 44, 375–389, doi: 10.1016/j.marpol.2013.10.005.


Richard P.R., Heide-Jørgensen M.P. & St Aubin D.J. 1998. Fall movements of belugas (Delphinapterus leucas) with satellite-linked transmitters in Lancaster Sound, Jones Sound, and northern Baffin Bay. Arctic 51, 5–16.


Richard P.R., Martin A.R. & Orr J.R. 1997. Study of summer and fall movements and dive behavior of Beaufort Sea belugas, using satellite telemetry: 1992–1995. Environmental Studies Research Funds 134. Calgary: Environmental Studies Research Funds.


Richard P.R., Martin A. & Orr J.R. 2001. Summer and autumn movements of belugas of the eastern Beaufort Sea stock. Arctic 54, 223–236.


Smith T.G. 1985. Polar bears, Ursus maritimus, as predators of belugas, Delphinapterus leucus. Canadian Field-Naturalist 99, 71–75.


Smith T.G. & Martin A.R. 1994. Distribution of belugas, Delphinapterus leucas, in the Canadian High Arctic. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 51, 1653–1663, doi: 10.1139/f94-166.


Spielhagen R.F., Werner K., Sorensen S.A., Zamelczyk K., Kandiano E., Budeus G., Husum K., Marchitto T.M. & Hald M. 2011. Enhanced modern heat transfer to the Arctic by warm Atlantic water. Science 331, 450–453, doi: 10.1126/science.1197397.


Stirling I. 1997. The importance of polynyas, ice edges, and leads to marine mammals and birds. Journal of Marine Systems 10, 9–21, doi: 10.1016/S0924-7963(96)00054-1.


Thums M., Bradshaw C.J.A. & Hindell M.A. 2008. A validated approach for supervised dive classification in diving vertebrates. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 363, 75–83, doi: 10.1016/j.jembe.2008.06.024.


Tremblay Y., Robinson P.W. & Costa D.P. 2009. A parsimonious approach to modeling animal movement data. PLoS One 4(3), e4711, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004711.


Vacquié-Garcia J., Lydersen C., Ims R.A. & Kovacs K.M. 2018. Habitats and movement patterns of white whales Delphinapterus leucas in Svalbard, Norway. Movement Ecology 6, article no. 21, doi: 10.1186/s40462-018-0139-z.


Vihtakari M., Welcker J., Moe B., Chastel O., Tartu S., Hop H., Bech C., Descamps S. & Gabrielsen G.W. 2018. Black-legged kittiwakes as messengers of Atlantification in the Arctic. Scientific Report 8, article no. 1178, doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-19118-8.


Watt C.A., Orr J. & Ferguson S.H. 2016. A shift in foraging behaviour of beluga whales Delphinapterus leucas from the threatened Cumberland Sound population may reflect a changing Arctic food web. Endangered Species Research 31, 259–270, doi: 10.3354/esr00768.


Zuur A.F., Ieno E.N., Walker N.J., Saveliev A.A. & Smith G.M. 2009. Mixed effects models and extensions in ecology with R. New York: Springer.
Published
2019-12-16
How to Cite
Vacquié-Garcia, J., Lydersen, C., & Kovacs, K. M. (2019). Diving behaviour of adult male white whales (Delphinapterus leucas) in Svalbard, Norway. Polar Research, 38. https://doi.org/10.33265/polar.v38.3605
Section
Research Articles

Most read articles by the same author(s)