Color pattern complexity in dwarf minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) of the northern Great Barrier Reef of Australia

Hutchings, Marissa J., Hamann, Mark, Smithers, Scott G., Daley, Emily, and Birtles, R. Alastair (2023) Color pattern complexity in dwarf minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) of the northern Great Barrier Reef of Australia. Marine Mammal Science, 39 (3). pp. 780-793.

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Abstract

Complex color patterning is a characteristic feature of dwarf minke whales (DMWs; Balaenoptera acutorostrata) which has been used to photographically identify (photo-ID) individuals and to research an aggregation on Australia's Great Barrier Reef (GBR). DMW color patterns have been described and applied in various studies, but a detailed and systematic analysis of their complexity is yet to be performed. Here, we applied a novel categorization tool to assess the variation, asymmetry, and association of several DMW color pattern elements, subelements, and their character states. Proportions, hierarchical clustering, and multiple correspondence analysis revealed a high level of asymmetric color pattern variation, with white markings dominant and associated on the right of the body. Our results will improve the citizen science driven photo-ID of this little-known cetacean as labor-intensive manual methods transition to more efficient automated approaches. Such advancement will be challenging, yet beneficial for broader research into the poorly understood areas of DMW life history, evolution, genetics, social structure, and feeding. This could also potentially allow investigation into the functional significance of their color patterns.

Item ID: 78506
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1748-7692
Keywords: Balaenoptera, cetacean, color, dwarf minke whale, Great Barrier Reef, pattern, photo-identification, swim-with
Copyright Information: This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made. © 2023 The Authors. Marine Mammal Science published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Society for Marine Mammalogy.
Date Deposited: 16 Aug 2023 22:56
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410401 Conservation and biodiversity @ 30%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 30%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410407 Wildlife and habitat management @ 40%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180504 Marine biodiversity @ 80%
18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180502 Assessment and management of pelagic marine ecosystems @ 20%
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