Humpback whale predator-prey interactions
in the New York Bight
Knowledge of the foraging patterns and consumption of marine predators is central to understanding trophic interactions and to understanding the diet and energetic requirements of protected species such as marine mammals, seabirds and sea turtles. Humpback whales are large marine consumers that use waters in the Northeast US to forage in summer months. In waters of the New York Bight, humpback whale sightings have increased in recent years, likely due to increases in Atlantic menhaden. However, the implications of the increases in menhaden and humpback whales for trophic transfer and the coastal ecosystem of the New York Bight are currently unclear, and information on humpback whale diet, foraging behavior and prey availability in this region is limited.
This research uses Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) to quantify the size of prey patches used by humpback whales in the NYB, and to examine changes in humpback whale body condition as an indicator of prey availability and foraging success.