Overview of Balaenoptera whales strandings in Southern Brazil from 1993 to 2018
The ecology and distribution of most baleen whales are poorly known in Brazilian waters, despite the history of whaling and the recent increase in the research effort. Although stranding data presents some caveats, it is useful to understand patterns of distribution and occurrence and to detect population trends. In this scenario, data from 25 years of a monitoring marine mammal stranding program were used to evaluate the composition and spatial-temporal patterns of Balaenoptera whales in southern Brazil. A stretch of 270 km on the coast of Rio Grande do Sul State (from 29°20’S to 31°21’S) was surveyed year-round between 1993 and 2018. Whales were identified, measured and sex determined whenever possible. Molecular identification through mtDNA analysis was obtained for 22 individuals and confirmed field identification in 17 cases. Forty-eight whales of four species were recorded: common minke whale B. acutorostrata n = 27, Antarctic minke whale B. bonaerensis n = 1, Bryde’s whale B. brydei n = 13, fin whale B. physalus n = 1. In addition, six whales were not identified at species level due to advanced decomposition. The larger number of strandings of common minke and Bryde’s whales may be related to their greater abundance and/or more coastal distribution. Both species were recorded year-round, but strandings of common minke and Bryde’s whales occurred mostly during winter/spring (77.77%) and spring/summer (66.66%), respectively. Although Bryde’s whales appear to remain in southern Brazilian waters during the entire year, the results suggest the existence of seasonal inshore-offshore movements. Moreover, the greater number of strandings of juveniles of common minke whales compared to adults (ratio 1.86:1) and their occurrence in different seasons suggest that some immature individuals may not leave this region, as previously pointed out by other studies. This long-term survey brings new evidence of the importance of this region in the Southwestern Atlantic Ocean for some Balaenoptera species.
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