Cetacean distribution in relation to environmental parameters between Drake Passage and northern Antarctic Peninsula

  • Manuela BassoiEmail author
  • Jorge Acevedo
  • Eduardo R. Secchi
  • Anelio Aguayo-Lobo
  • Luciano Dalla Rosa
  • Daniel Torres
  • Marcos C. O. Santos
  • Alexandre F. Azevedo


The Drake Passage (DP) is a dynamic oceanographic region influenced by the main frontal systems of the Southern Ocean, with little information about cetacean distribution and their relationship with environmental parameters. This study explored the use of generalized additive models (GAMs) to model the relationships of some cetacean species according to sea surface temperature (SST) and a suite of physiographic variables adjacent to the Antarctic Peninsula and DP during the austral summer. The results suggest that SST and distances from oceanographic boundaries, mainly the Southern Antarctic Circumpolar Current Front (SACCF) and Polar Front (PF), were the most significant parameters related to the presence/absence of cetaceans. SST showed an effect on humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) presence around lower temperatures and sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis) and hourglass dolphin (Lagenorhynchus cruciger) at warmer waters. Four species of baleen whales prefer areas near SACCF and Elephant Island and two odontocetes in waters near the PF. Clustering analysis reflected three major groupings based on distances from oceanic fronts and coast: cetaceans that occurred in the northern sector of the DP but with the PF as the southernmost range; a second group with species occurring along the DP and not preferring Antarctic waters further south of the SACCF; and the third group, mainly baleen whales, mostly occupying Antarctic waters southern of the SACCF. We encourage further dedicated cetacean surveys in this particular dynamic region, based on in situ oceanographic data and krill acoustic sampling, and either taking into consideration cetacean species density or abundance.


Drake passage Cetacean Distribution Antarctica peninsula Oceanographic parameters Southern ocean 



We wish to thank Juliana Di Tullio, Silvina Botta, Daniel Danilewicz, Ignacio Moreno, Paulo Flores, Glauco Caon, Fernanda Marques, Carlos Olavarria and Jorge Plana for contributing to this study. We also thank the crews of the NApOc Ary Rongel, NPo Almirante Maximiano, PSGs Micalvi and Isaza, ATFs Lautaro and Leucotón, AP46 Oscar Viel, M/N Dap Mares and Yacht Australis. The Chilean authors thank the Directors of INACH and CEQUA for their logistic help and work facilities. PROSUL/BioMAntar Project (CNPq 490609/2007-4) supported M. Bassoi travel to the British Antarctic Survey, UK. We appreciate the useful help of Huw Griffiths (BAS) for the GIS tolls, Jaume Forcada (BAS) and Marcus Nunes (UFRN) for the GAM analysis and Phil Trathan for the useful comments. Ella Pereira (FURG) helped with the satellite images data. We also thank David Ainley, Peter Corkeron and an anonymous reviewer for comments that help us greatly to clarify an earlier version of this paper. This paper is a contribution from the MABIREH Project (CNPq), the Census of Antarctic Marine Life (CAML), the Instituto Nacional de Ciência e Tecnologia Antártico de Pesquisas Ambientais (INCT-APA) and the research group Ecologia e Conservação da Megafauna Marinha-EcoMega/CNPq. In memory of Natalie Goodall whose enthusiasm, knowledge and dedication to study cetacean of southernmost South America were pioneering to understand many species inhabit Drake Passage waters.


Financial support to M. Bassoi (Process 15.0535/2009-0) and E. R. Secchi (PQ 305219/2008-1) was provided by the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq). Financial support to A. Aguayo-Lobo (INACH 08-93 and 163 projects) and D. Torres (INACH 018 project) was provided by Instituto Antártico Chileno (INACH).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Manuela Bassoi
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Jorge Acevedo
    • 3
  • Eduardo R. Secchi
    • 2
  • Anelio Aguayo-Lobo
    • 4
  • Luciano Dalla Rosa
    • 2
  • Daniel Torres
    • 5
  • Marcos C. O. Santos
    • 6
  • Alexandre F. Azevedo
    • 7
  1. 1.Census of Antarctic Marine Life (CAML), Depto de ZoologiaUniversidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ)Rio de JaneiroBrazil
  2. 2.Instituto de Oceanografia, Laboratório de Ecologia e Conservação da Megafauna Marinha (EcoMega)Universidade Federal do Rio Grande (FURG)Rio GrandeBrazil
  3. 3.Fundación Centro de Estudios del Cuaternario (CEQUA)Punta ArenasChile
  4. 4.Departamento CientíficoInstituto Antártico Chileno (INACH)Punta ArenasChile
  5. 5.Facultad de Ciencias Agropecuarias Y Ambientales, Escuela de Medicina VeterinariaUniversidad de Las AméricasSantiagoChile
  6. 6.Instituto Oceanográfico, Laboratório de Biologia da Conservação de Mamíferos AquáticosUniversidade de São Paulo (USP)São PauloBrazil
  7. 7.Depto de Oceanografia, Laboratório de Mamíferos Aquáticos e Bioindicadores (MAQUA)Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (UERJ)Rio de JaneiroBrazil

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