Presence of Southeast Pacific blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) off South Georgia in the South Atlantic Ocean

The Southeast Pacific (SEP) or Chilean blue whale population is largely distributed between Northern Chilean Patagonia and the Eastern Tropical Pacific. Off South Georgia (SG), the majority of blue whales caught were Antarctic blue whales, but recent genetic and acoustic records indicate the possible presence of SEP individuals. To assess the presence of SEP blue whales off SG, we carried out new analyses of acoustic data previously reported as containing pygmy blue whale song and analyzed the length frequencies from 20th century catch data. The month of acoustic data reported to contain the presumed pygmy blue whale song was examined (August 2006), and 13 days were found to have songs which visually and quantitatively matched SEP2 songs from Northern Chilean Patagonia. The fundamental frequency of SEP2 song off SG, however, was not in line with the predicted frequency shift trend of the SEP2 songs in the SEP. A mixture analysis of lengths in historic whaling catches indicated that 3.3% of the catches from SG could be SEP blue whales, although this declined to 0.6%, 95% CI [0.0, 2.6] when fit to nonrounded lengths. Our results suggest that any SEP blue whales off SG are likely rare vagrants, at the edge of an endangered population.


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Authors: Rojas‐Cerda, Constanza, Buchan, Susannah J., Branch, Trevor A., Malige, Franck, Patris, Julie, Hucke‐Gaete, Rodrigo, Staniland, Iain ORCIDORCID record for Iain Staniland

On this site: Iain Staniland
10 October, 2022
Marine Mammal Science / 38
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