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Habitat preferences by individual humpback whale mothers in the Hawaiian breeding grounds vary with the age and size of their calves

Pack, Adam A.; Herman, Louis M.; Craig, Alison S.; Spitz, Scott S.; Waterman, James O.; Herman, Elia Y.K.; Deakos, Mark H.; Hakala, Siri; Lowe, Carley


Adam A. Pack

Louis M. Herman

Alison S. Craig

Scott S. Spitz

James O. Waterman

Elia Y.K. Herman

Mark H. Deakos

Siri Hakala

Carley Lowe


We investigated whether calf age and calf size influence habitat choice by humpback whale motherecalf pairs in their breeding grounds. During 1997e2008, we conducted focal follows of motherecalf pairs in Hawaiian waters. Tail-fluke identification photographs and calf lengths (measured through video-grammetry) were obtained. Water depth and sea-bed terrain type were derived from GPS data. Identification photographs were matched so that the habitat choices could be established within breeding seasons. Across 72 motherecalf pairs resighted over various intervals within a breeding season, magnitude of depth change between initial and final sightings increased significantly with resighting interval. There was a significant increase from initial depth to final depth for relatively long resighting intervals (27e51 days), but no significant difference for relatively short resighting intervals (2e26 days). Although there was no preference for sea-bed terrain type by motherecalf pairs at their initial sighting, there was a preference for rugged terrain at their final resighting. A resource selection model indicated that the relative probability of a location being used by a motherecalf pair increased (as a function of water depth and rugged sea-bed terrain type) from initial to final sighting; a finding supported by subsequent tests of habitat preference versus availability. For 96 measured calves, calf length and water depth were positively correlated, even when ordinal day of measurement was controlled for statistically; a finding confirmed by a general linear model that simultaneously investigated the relationship between water depth, sea-bed terrain type, number of escorts, ordinal day and calf size. Thus, both calf age and size influence habitat choice by motherecalf pairs in their breeding grounds. The movement of mothers and their maturing calves into deeper waters where they favour rugged sea-bed terrain appears to be part of a suite of behavioural changes during the pre-migratory phase of residency in the breeding grounds.


Pack, A. A., Herman, L. M., Craig, A. S., Spitz, S. S., Waterman, J. O., Herman, E. Y., …Lowe, C. (2017). Habitat preferences by individual humpback whale mothers in the Hawaiian breeding grounds vary with the age and size of their calves. Animal Behaviour, 133, 131-144.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 24, 2017
Online Publication Date Nov 14, 2017
Publication Date Nov 14, 2017
Deposit Date Nov 1, 2017
Publicly Available Date Nov 15, 2018
Journal Animal Behaviour
Print ISSN 0003-3472
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 133
Pages 131-144
Keywords Calf size, habitat use, humpback whale, mother-calf, ocean depth, residency, sea-bed terrain
Public URL


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