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Behavioral responses of humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae (Cetacea: Balaenopteridae), to satellite transmitter deployment procedures

Behavioral responses of humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae (Cetacea: Balaenopteridae), to satellite transmitter deployment procedures,Luiz Cláudi

Behavioral responses of humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae (Cetacea: Balaenopteridae), to satellite transmitter deployment procedures  
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Tagging whales with implantable satellite transmitters creates the possibility of disturbing the animals. Between 2003 and 2005, behavioral observations of humpback whales during tag deployment operations were con- ducted off the coast of Brazil from the flying bridge of a speedboat. The speed achieved by each whale during pursuit was registered by GPS receivers onboard two inflatable zodiac boats. Respiratory frequencies were significantly lower (n = 15, p < 0.05) before (mean = 0.89 ± 0.06 blows/min) compared with after (1.39 ± 0.15) tagging. The same effect was observed for the speed of each animal (mean = 10.96 ± 0.44 km/h and 12.54 ± 0.57 km/h; n = 13, p < 0.05). Both variables were positively correlated with the duration of the pursuit (n = 21, r = 0.88, p < 0.05; n = 13, r = 0.94, p < 0.01) and with each other (n = 26, r = 0.65, p < 0.01). Acute responses were observed in 50% of the 28 tag deployments. Pursuits were shown to generate a longer effect than tagging. We suggest that the behavioral changes presented here are short-term disturbances because the tagging operation ends quickly and is not a repeated procedure. However, protocols must be developed to guarantee the maintenance of the animals' welfare during operations.
Published in 2010.
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