Sympatry and resource partitioning between the largest krill consumers around the Antarctic Peninsula

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<jats:p>Understanding how closely related, sympatric species distribute themselves relative to their environment is critical to understanding ecosystem structure and function and predicting effects of environmental variation. The Antarctic Peninsula supports high densities of krill and krill consumers; however, the region is warming rapidly, with unknown consequences. Humpback whales <jats:italic>Megaptera novaeangliae</jats:italic> and Antarctic minke whales <jats:italic>Balaenoptera bonaerensis</jats:italic> are the largest krill consumers here, yet key data gaps remain about their distribution, behavior, and interactions and how these will be impacted by changing conditions. Using satellite telemetry and novel spatial point-process modeling techniques, we quantified habitat use of each species relative to dynamic environmental variables and determined overlap in core habitat areas during summer months when sea ice is at a minimum. We found that humpback whales ranged broadly over continental shelf waters, utilizing nearshore bays, while minke whales restricted their movements to sheltered bays and areas where ice is present. This presents a scenario where minke whale core habitat overlaps substantially with the broader home ranges of humpback whales. While there is no indication that prey is limiting in this ecosystem, increased overlap between these species may arise as climate-driven changes that affect the extent, timing, and duration of seasonal sea ice decrease the amount of preferred foraging habitat for minke whales while concurrently increasing it for humpback whales. Our results provide the first quantitative assessment of behaviorally based habitat use and sympatry between these 2 krill consumers and offers insight into the potential effects of a rapidly changing environment on the structure and function of a polar ecosystem.</jats:p>





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Friedlaender, AS, T Joyce, DW Johnston, AJ Read, DP Nowacek, JA Goldbogen, N Gales, JW Durban, et al. (2021). Sympatry and resource partitioning between the largest krill consumers around the Antarctic Peninsula. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 669. pp. 1–16. 10.3354/meps13771 Retrieved from

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David William Johnston

Professor of the Practice of Marine Conservation Ecology

Dr. David W. Johnston is a Professor of the Practice of Marine Conservation Ecology at Duke University and the Associate Dean of Teaching Innovation at the Nicholas School of the Environment.  Johnston chairs the Duke Environmental Leadership Master’s Program and is the Director of the Marine Robotics and Remote Sensing (MaRRS) Lab at Duke University. Johnston holds a PhD from Duke University and received post-doctoral training at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California. His professional experience ranges from leading research programs for NOAA to working as an ecologist within the NGO sector. Johnston’s research program currently focuses on advancing robotic applications, platforms and sensors for marine science, education, and conservation missions. He has published extensively in top journals in the fields of conservation biology, oceanography, marine ecology and marine policy on research that spans tropical, temperate and polar biomes. Johnston is an innovative teacher with experience in both large and small classrooms, and is skilled in online course development and deployment, field-based learning, and data visualization.


Andrew J Read

Stephen A. Toth Distinguished Professor of Marine Biology in the Nicholas School of the Environment

I study the conservation biology of long-lived marine vertebrates, particularly marine mammals, seabirds and sea turtles. My work, and that of my students, documents the effects of human activities on populations of these species. Our work involves field work, experimentation and modeling. I am particularly interested in the development and application of new conservation tools.


Douglas Nowacek

Randolph K. Repass and Sally-Christine Rodgers University Distinguished Professor of Conservation Technology in Environment and Engineering

Sound propagates very efficiently through sea water, and marine mammals take advantage of this medium to communicate and explore their environment. My research is focused on the link between acoustic and motor behavior in marine mammals, primarily cetaceans and manatees, specifically, how they use sound in ecological processes. The cetaceans, or whales and dolphins, are divided into two main groups, the toothed whales (odontocetes) and the baleen whales (mysticetes). One of my specific areas of research is the use of echolocation and foraging behavior in one of the odontocetes, the bottlenose dolphin. Another focus of my current research is the effect(s) of anthropogenic noise on marine mammals.

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