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Distribution et préférences d'habitats des baleines à bosse de l'hémisphère Sud en période de reproduction

Abstract : Of key importance for the comprehension of humpback whales’ (Megaptera novaeangliae) distribution patterns and habitat use is to quantify how ecological and environmental factors affect the distribution of animals, which requires knowledge on dispersal movements of individuals. Using an opportunistic sightings dataset collected in the Sainte Marie Channel (Northeast of Madagascar) and satellite telemetry data acquired for this study (25 tagged whales), the aim of this thesis was to study the movements and the habitat use of humpback whales in Madagascar during the breeding season, according to sex and reproductive status. Physiographic and oceanographic variables (measured by satellite) were extracted under each position. A general distribution pattern of habitat use during the breeding season was also proposed based on additional humpback whales tracks from others breeding grounds of the Southern Hemisphere: Brazil (n=82 individuals), the Western Australian coast (n=26), and the Eastern Australian coast (n=11). In the Sainte-Marie Channel, groups without calves dominated the first 30 days of the breeding season, followed by an increase in groups with calves (Chapter III). Water depth influenced the distribution of social groups with mother-calf pairs more frequently found in relatively shallow water (0-20 m). Along the coast of Madagascar, over the shelf, females showed localized behavior in deep water and at large distances from shore suggesting that their breeding habitat extends beyond the shallow coastal waters (Chapter IV). Males’ active swimming speed decreased in shallow waters, but we found no influence of environmental parameters on males’ movements. In oceanic habitats, both males and females showed localized behaviors in shallow waters and high surface chlorophyll-a concentrations. The active swimming speed accounts for a large proportion of the whale observed speed while observed direction of tagged whales tending to be closer to the current direction when the current intensity was high. Our comparative study between breeding areas showed that the spatial distribution varies according to the period of the season, between the studied sites, sex and breeding status (Chapter V). Early and late in the season, males moved more directly and in more offshore areas than females, especially females with calves. At the peak of the season, both males and females performed more localized movements than at the other periods. Accounting for differences in the spatio-temporal variability of the distribution of males and females in the breeding grounds seems a necessity to better understand the humpback whales ecology and contribute to the species conservation.
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Laurène Trudelle. Distribution et préférences d'habitats des baleines à bosse de l'hémisphère Sud en période de reproduction. Ecologie, Environnement. Université Paris-Saclay, 2016. Français. ⟨NNT : 2016SACLS038⟩. ⟨tel-01758838⟩

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