An initial examination of relationships between the distribution of whales and Antarctic krill Euphausia superba at South Georgia

The distribution of whales and krill in two survey boxes north of South Georgia was examined by comparing sightings and underway acoustic data collected as part of a multi-disciplinary research cruise carried out during January/February 1998. A total of 222 cetaceans of 10 species was recorded with the southern right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) and humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) the two most frequent. The largest aggregation of cetaceans (21 southern right whales, 16 fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus), 4 sea whales (B. borealis), 1 humpback whale and 8 hourglass dolphins (Lagenorhynchus cruciger) occurred close to the largest single aggregation of krill. The level of association between baleen whales and krill was examined at a number of spatial scales. There was a positive relationship between whale abundance and mean krill density at the largest spatial scale examined (80X100km). At progressively smaller scales the relationship was weakened, due mainly to the increased frequency of areas of high krill density where whales were not recorded. In particular, whales were absent from inshore areas (up to 300m depth) that had higher mean krill densities compared with areas where whales were recorded. To thoroughly compare krill and whale distribution, particularly at smaller scales, will require information on krill swarm structure and density, as well as more information on the behaviour and feeding requirements of whales. Such information may also be crucial to understanding the role of scale-dependence in potential interspecies competition among krill-feeding marine predators.


Publication status:
Authors: Reid, Keith, Brierley, Andrew S., Nevitt, Gabrielle A.

1 January, 2000
Journal of Cetacean Research and Management / 2