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Post-Release Monitoring of a Stranded and Rehabilitated Short-Finned Pilot Whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus) Reveals Current-Assisted Travel
Abstract: A subadult female short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus), which stranded on the northeastern Gulf of Mexico coast of Florida in June 2017, was rehabilitated for 38 days and then monitored with a satellite-linked, time-depth recording tag for 32 days after being released off the West Florida Shelf. The individual, “Gale,” appeared to regularly use ocean currents to facilitate a southeastward movement around Florida, and then a northward movement along the continental shelf break to the waters off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Indeed, 57% of her travel along the coast of Florida was at speeds consistent with the surface speed and direction of the Gulf Stream. Overall, current-assisted travel contributed to a 19% increase in distance traveled (4,152 km) and to an average rate of travel (130 km/d) that was higher than previously reported for Globicephala spp. Gale’s dive behavior was typical of other short-finned pilot whale observations, with average dive depths (243 ± 136 m; max = 712 m) and durations (7.9 ± 2.2 min; max = 16.0 min) within the range of reported values for Globicephala spp. Gale also occupied habitats known to be used by pilot whales, and her movements and behaviors were consistent with those observed in other short-finned pilot whales in the Gulf of Mexico and the northwestern Atlantic Ocean. The information presented herein contributes to a better understanding of short-finned pilot whales and to the assessment of rehabilitation and release protocols.
Key Words: post-release monitoring, tagging, tracking, dive behavior, current-assisted travel, Gulf Stream, pilot whale, Globicephala macrorhynchus
Page Numbers: 200-214