Migratory Interchange of Humpback Whales between Ecuador and feeding and breeding areas in South America

Project Name:

Migratory Interchange of Humpback Whales between Ecuador and feeding and breeding areas in South America

Study System:

West Latin America humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae

Motivation and Goals:

Little is known about the migratory movements of the West Latin America population of humpback whales. Recent evidence suggests that waters off the coast of Peru may be a site of breeding activity for these whales. Standardized research protocols across regions will help researchers work together to establish a comprehensive photo-identification catalog and determine how humpback whales are using these areas.

Specifically, we are interested in the interchange of animals between habitats in Ecuador and Peru since there is recent evidence to suggest that Peruvian waters serve as a site of breeding activity rather than solely a migration corridor as previously thought. 

Methods:

We collect fluke photographs along with data on pod composition—age class, sex (when possible), and number of animals—to establish a photo-identification catalog for the West Latin America population of humpback whales.  This catalog will allow researchers to compare sightings of humpback whales between Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Panama.   

Results to Date:

Two individual humpback whales have been confirmed to have traveled to both Ecuador and Peru during the breeding season. This indicates the possibility of breeding activities in Peru as well as Ecuador and warrants more detailed analyses of additional study areas. 

Next Steps:

We will continue developing photo-identification catalogs to gain a more complete picture of the movement patterns and habitat use of humpback whales in the West Latin America region.

Most Recent Publication:

2011: Castro, C., Alcorta, B., Allen, J., Caceres, C., Forestell, P., Kaufman, G., Mattila, D., Pacheco, A.S., Robbins, J., Santillan, L., Scheidat, M., Silva, S. and Tagarino, A. Comparison of the humpback whale catalogues between Ecuador, Peru and American Samoa. Evidence of the enlargement of the Breeding Stock G to Peru. International Whaling Commission, Tromso, Norway. SC/63/SH19.