Recent mitochondrial DNA analyses have determined Eastern Australian humpback whales to be one of 3 distinct sub-stocks within IWC BS-E. Using microsatellite genotypes (up to 12 microsatellite loci, mtDNA sequence data and molecular sex identification) from Eastern Australia (n=734 unique individuals), South Pacific Islands (Oceania, n=1086 unique individuals) and Antarctic feeding Areas I-VI (n=175 unique individuals), we detected migratory interchange between humpback whales in Eastern Australia and New Caledonia (n=11) and Eastern Australia and Tonga (n=1). Migratory interchange was also detected between Eastern Australia and summer feeding grounds in Antarctic Area V (n=3). There were no whales from Eastern Australia detected to move outside the boundaries of Area V (130°E-170°W). Given that the IUCN has listed the humpback whales from Oceania as endangered, these results have implications for the management of humpback whales in Eastern Australia and Oceania (Areas V and VI), because individuals from different Breeding sub-stocks appear to be mixing on both the breeding and feeding grounds. Additionally, this study shows that a technique used to make microsatellite genotypes directly comparable between research groups is useful for conducting large-scale genotype matching for investigating migratory interchange of humpback whales.
Anderson, M, Steel, D, Franklin, W, Franklin, T, Paton, D, Burns, D, Harrison, P, Bravestock, PR, Garrigue, C Olavarria, C, Poole, M, Hauser, N, Constantine, R, Thiele, D, Clapham, P, Donoghue, M & Baker, CS 2010, 'Microsatellite genotype matches of eastern Australian humpback whales to Area V feeding and breeding grounds', unpublished report for consideration by the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Committee, SC/62/SH7, Agadir, Morocco, 30th May-11th June.