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      Tracking apex marine predator movements in a dynamic ocean

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          Abstract

          Pelagic marine predators face unprecedented challenges and uncertain futures. Overexploitation and climate variability impact the abundance and distribution of top predators in ocean ecosystems. Improved understanding of ecological patterns, evolutionary constraints and ecosystem function is critical for preventing extinctions, loss of biodiversity and disruption of ecosystem services. Recent advances in electronic tagging techniques have provided the capacity to observe the movements and long-distance migrations of animals in relation to ocean processes across a range of ecological scales. Tagging of Pacific Predators, a field programme of the Census of Marine Life, deployed 4,306 tags on 23 species in the North Pacific Ocean, resulting in a tracking data set of unprecedented scale and species diversity that covers 265,386 tracking days from 2000 to 2009. Here we report migration pathways, link ocean features to multispecies hotspots and illustrate niche partitioning within and among congener guilds. Our results indicate that the California Current large marine ecosystem and the North Pacific transition zone attract and retain a diverse assemblage of marine vertebrates. Within the California Current large marine ecosystem, several predator guilds seasonally undertake north-south migrations that may be driven by oceanic processes, species-specific thermal tolerances and shifts in prey distributions. We identify critical habitats across multinational boundaries and show that top predators exploit their environment in predictable ways, providing the foundation for spatial management of large marine ecosystems. ©2011 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved

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          Most cited references23

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          Migratory shearwaters integrate oceanic resources across the Pacific Ocean in an endless summer.

          Electronic tracking tags have revolutionized our understanding of broad-scale movements and habitat use of highly mobile marine animals, but a large gap in our knowledge still remains for a wide range of small species. Here, we report the extraordinary transequatorial postbreeding migrations of a small seabird, the sooty shearwater, obtained with miniature archival tags that log data for estimating position, dive depth, and ambient temperature. Tracks (262+/-23 days) reveal that shearwaters fly across the entire Pacific Ocean in a figure-eight pattern while traveling 64,037+/-9,779 km roundtrip, the longest animal migration ever recorded electronically. Each shearwater made a prolonged stopover in one of three discrete regions off Japan, Alaska, or California before returning to New Zealand through a relatively narrow corridor in the central Pacific Ocean. Transit rates as high as 910+/-186 km.day-1 were recorded, and shearwaters accessed prey resources in both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere's most productive waters from the surface to 68.2 m depth. Our results indicate that sooty shearwaters integrate oceanic resources throughout the Pacific Basin on a yearly scale. Sooty shearwater populations today are declining, and because they operate on a global scale, they may serve as an important indicator of climate change and ocean health.
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            Sequential megafaunal collapse in the North Pacific Ocean: an ongoing legacy of industrial whaling?

            Populations of seals, sea lions, and sea otters have sequentially collapsed over large areas of the northern North Pacific Ocean and southern Bering Sea during the last several decades. A bottom-up nutritional limitation mechanism induced by physical oceanographic change or competition with fisheries was long thought to be largely responsible for these declines. The current weight of evidence is more consistent with top-down forcing. Increased predation by killer whales probably drove the sea otter collapse and may have been responsible for the earlier pinniped declines as well. We propose that decimation of the great whales by post-World War II industrial whaling caused the great whales' foremost natural predators, killer whales, to begin feeding more intensively on the smaller marine mammals, thus "fishing-down" this element of the marine food web. The timing of these events, information on the abundance, diet, and foraging behavior of both predators and prey, and feasibility analyses based on demographic and energetic modeling are all consistent with this hypothesis.
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              Philopatry and migration of Pacific white sharks.

              Advances in electronic tagging and genetic research are making it possible to discern population structure for pelagic marine predators once thought to be panmictic. However, reconciling migration patterns and gene flow to define the resolution of discrete population management units remains a major challenge, and a vital conservation priority for threatened species such as oceanic sharks. Many such species have been flagged for international protection, yet effective population assessments and management actions are hindered by lack of knowledge about the geographical extent and size of distinct populations. Combining satellite tagging, passive acoustic monitoring and genetics, we reveal how eastern Pacific white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) adhere to a highly predictable migratory cycle. Individuals persistently return to the same network of coastal hotspots following distant oceanic migrations and comprise a population genetically distinct from previously identified phylogenetic clades. We hypothesize that this strong homing behaviour has maintained the separation of a northeastern Pacific population following a historical introduction from Australia/New Zealand migrants during the Late Pleistocene. Concordance between contemporary movement and genetic divergence based on mitochondrial DNA demonstrates a demographically independent management unit not previously recognized. This population's fidelity to discrete and predictable locations offers clear population assessment, monitoring and management options.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature
                Nature
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                0028-0836
                1476-4687
                July 2011
                June 22 2011
                July 2011
                : 475
                : 7354
                : 86-90
                Article
                10.1038/nature10082
                21697831
                58652655-f7ba-4f5f-9ec6-bf98e85e2973
                © 2011

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