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Rapid weight loss in free ranging pygmy killer whales (Feresa attenuata) and the implications for anthropogenic disturbance of odontocetes

Currie, J.J., van Aswegen, M., Stack, S.H., West, K.L., Vivier, F. and Bejder, L. (2021) Rapid weight loss in free ranging pygmy killer whales (Feresa attenuata) and the implications for anthropogenic disturbance of odontocetes. Scientific Reports, 11 (1). Art. 8181.

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Free to read: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-87514-2
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Abstract

Understanding the impacts of foraging disruptions to odontocete body condition is fundamental to quantifying biological effects of human disturbance and environmental changes on cetacean populations. Here, reductions in body volume of free-ranging pygmy killer whales (Feresa attenuata) were calculated using repeated measurements of the same individuals obtained through Unoccupied Aerial System (UAS)-photogrammetry during a prolonged disruption in foraging activity arising from a 21-day stranding event. Stranded individuals were used to verify UAS-derived volume and length estimates through 3D-imaging, water displacement, and post-mortem measurements. We show that (a) UAS estimates of length were within 1.5% of actual body length and UAS volume estimates were within 10–13% of actual volume, (b) foraging disruption resulted in a daily decrease of 2% of total body mass/day, and (c) pygmy killer whales can lose up to 27% of their total body weight within 17 days. These findings highlight the use of UAS as a promising new method to remotely monitor changes in body condition and animal health, which can be used to determine the potential effects of anthropogenic disturbance and environmental change on free-ranging odontocetes.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems
Harry Butler Institute
Publisher: Springer Nature
Copyright: © 2021 The Authors.
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/60607
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