• Local recruitment of humpback whales in Glacier Bay and Icy Strait, Alaska, over 30 years

      Pierszalowski, Sophie P.; Gabriele, Christine M.; Steel, Debbie J.; Neilson, Janet L.; Vanselow, Phoebe B. S.; Cedarleaf, Jennifer A.; Straley, Janice M.; Baker, C. Scott (2016-03-15)
      We provide new information on the scale at which fidelity and recruitment underlie observed increases in humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae populations. We used photoidentification records and DNA profiles from whales in Glacier Bay and Icy Strait (GBIS), southeastern Alaska (SEAK) to investigate 3 sources of population increase over 33 yr (1973−2005): local GBIS recruitment, recruitment from elsewhere in SEAK, and immigration from outside SEAK. We defined 2 temporal strata for these longitudinal records: ‘founder’ individuals identified from 1973 to 1985 (n = 74; n = 46 with DNA profiles) and ‘contemporary’ individuals identified from 2004 to 2005 (n = 171; n = 118 with DNA profiles). To distinguish between local recruitment and recruitment from elsewhere in SEAK, we estimated the proportion of the contemporary stratum that was either a returning founder or descended from a founder female. After excluding 42 contemporary whales without a known mother or genotype to infer maternity, 73.6% of the contemporary stratum was confirmed or inferred through parentage analysis to be either a returning founder or a descendant of a founder mother. Of the 25 females with genotypes in the founder stratum, 24 (96%) were either represented in the contemporary stratum, had at least 1 descendant in the contemporary stratum, or both. We found no significant differences in microsatellite allele or mtDNA frequencies between the strata, suggesting little or no immigration from other feeding grounds. Our results highlight the importance of local habitat protection for a recovering species with culturally inherited migratory destinations.