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Decline in energy storage in the Antarctic minke whale (Balaenoptera bonaerensis) in the Southern Ocean

Abstract

The annual trend in energy storage in the Antarctic minke whale was examined using catch data from all 18 survey years in the Japanese Whale Research Program (JARPA). Regression analyses clearly showed that blubber thickness, girth and fat weight have been decreasing for nearly 2 decades. The decrease per year is estimated at approximately 0.02 cm for mid-lateral blubber thickness and 17 kg for fat weight, corresponding to 9% for both measurements over the 18-year period. Furthermore, “date”, “extent of diatom adhesion”, “sex”, “body length”, “fetus length”, “latitude”, “age” and “longitude” were all identified as partially independent predictors of blubber thickness. The direct interpretation of this substantial decline in energy storage in terms of food availability is difficult, since no long-term krill abundance series is available. However, an increase in the abundance of krill feeders other than minke whales and a resulting decrease in the krill population must be considered as a likely explanation.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank all the captains and crews, especially for K. Makita and Y. Murai, of the ships that took part and the scientists who were involved in JARPA surveys. Thanks are also due to Y. Fujise for providing us with small fetus length datasets of the minke whales, to Y. Hosone for helping us to organize the data set, and to Alison Coulthard for correcting the English. We would also like to thank D. Butterworth, S. Ohsumi, H. Hatanaka, T. Ichii, T. Hakamada and other people who have helped with and made valuable comments on this paper. The JARPA program was conducted with permission from the Japanese fisheries agency.

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Correspondence to Kenji Konishi.

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Konishi, K., Tamura, T., Zenitani, R. et al. Decline in energy storage in the Antarctic minke whale (Balaenoptera bonaerensis) in the Southern Ocean. Polar Biol 31, 1509–1520 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-008-0491-3

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-008-0491-3

Keywords

  • Antarctica
  • Minke whale
  • Balaenoptera bonaerensis
  • Long-term change
  • Euphausia superba
  • Prey availability