Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Tracking apex marine predator movements in a dynamic ocean

Abstract

Pelagic marine predators face unprecedented challenges and uncertain futures. Overexploitation and climate variability impact the abundance and distribution of top predators in ocean ecosystems1,2,3,4. Improved understanding of ecological patterns, evolutionary constraints and ecosystem function is critical for preventing extinctions, loss of biodiversity and disruption of ecosystem services. Recent advances in electronic tagging techniques have provided the capacity to observe the movements and long-distance migrations of animals in relation to ocean processes across a range of ecological scales5,6. Tagging of Pacific Predators, a field programme of the Census of Marine Life, deployed 4,306 tags on 23 species in the North Pacific Ocean, resulting in a tracking data set of unprecedented scale and species diversity that covers 265,386 tracking days from 2000 to 2009. Here we report migration pathways, link ocean features to multispecies hotspots and illustrate niche partitioning within and among congener guilds. Our results indicate that the California Current large marine ecosystem and the North Pacific transition zone attract and retain a diverse assemblage of marine vertebrates. Within the California Current large marine ecosystem, several predator guilds seasonally undertake north–south migrations that may be driven by oceanic processes, species-specific thermal tolerances and shifts in prey distributions. We identify critical habitats across multinational boundaries and show that top predators exploit their environment in predictable ways, providing the foundation for spatial management of large marine ecosystems.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: All TOPP species state space position estimates and distribution from electronic tagging.
Figure 2: Fidelity and attraction to the CCLME.
Figure 3: Latitudinal migration cycles and seasonal climatologies within the CCLME.
Figure 4: Predator density maps and residency patterns.
Figure 5: Niche separation within three predator guilds.

References

  1. Robinson, R. A. et al. Travelling through a warming world: climate change and migratory species. Endanger. Species Res. 7, 87–99 (2009)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  2. Chavez, F. P. et al. From anchovies to sardines and back: multidecadal change in the Pacific ocean. Science 299, 217–221 (2003)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Myers, R. A. & Worm, B. Rapid worldwide depletion of predatory fish communities. Nature 423, 280–283 (2003)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Costa, D. P. et al. Approaches to studying climate change and habitat selection of Antarctic pinnipeds. Integr. Comp. Biol. 50, 1018–1030 (2010)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Shillinger, G. et al. Persistent leatherback turtle migration corridor presents opportunities for conservation. PLoS Biol. 6, e171 (2008)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Shaffer, S. A. et al. Migratory shearwaters integrate oceanic resources across the Pacific Ocean in an endless summer. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 103, 12799–12802 (2006)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Scheffer, M., Carpenter, S. & de Young, B. Cascading effects of overfishing marine systems. Trends Ecol. Evol. 20, 579–581 (2005)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Springer, A. M. et al. Sequential megafaunal collapse in the North Pacific Ocean: an ongoing legacy of industrial whaling? Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 100, 12223–12228 (2003)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Steele, J. H. & Henderson, E. W. Coupling between physical and biological scales. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B 343, 5–9 (1994)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  10. Whitehead, H., McGill, B. & Worm, B. Diversity of deep-water cetaceans in relation to temperature: implications for ocean warming. Ecol. Lett. 11, 1198–1207 (2008)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Bailey, H. et al. Behavioural estimation of blue whale movements in the Northeast Pacific from state-space model analysis of satellite tracks. Endanger. Species Res. 10, 93–106 (2009)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Jorgensen, S. J. et al. Philopatry and migration of Pacific white sharks. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 277, 679–688 (2010)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Weng, K. C. et al. Satellite tagging and cardiac physiology reveal niche expansion in salmon sharks. Science 310, 104–106 (2005)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Jonsen, I. D., Flemming, J. M. & Myers, R. A. Robust state-space modeling of animal movement data. Ecology 86, 2874–2880 (2005)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Prince, E. & Goodyear, C. Hypoxia-based habitat compression of tropical pelagic fishes. Fish. Oceanogr. 15, 451–464 (2006)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Shiels, H. A., Di Maio, A., Thompson, S. & Block, B. A. Warm fish with cold hearts: thermal plasticity of excitation-contraction coupling of bluefin tuna. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 278, 18–27 (2011)

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. PICES. Marine Ecosystems of the North Pacific. PICES Spec. Publ. 1 (North Pacific Marine Science Organization, 2004)

  18. Polovina, J. J., Howell, E., Kobayashi, D. R. & Seki, M. P. The transition zone chlorophyll front, a dynamic global feature defining migration and forage habitat for marine resources. Prog. Oceanogr. 49, 469–483 (2001)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  19. Wood, S. Generalized Additive Models: An Introduction with R (Chapman & Hall/CRC, 2006)

    Book  Google Scholar 

  20. Tittensor, D. P. et al. Global patterns and predictors of marine biodiversity across taxa. Nature 466, 1098–1101 (2010)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  21. Sibert, J., Hampton, J., Kleiber, P. & Maunder, M. Biomass, size and trophic status of top predators in the Pacific ocean. Science 314, 1773–1776 (2006)

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  22. Campana, S. E. et al. Population dynamics of the porbeagle in the northwest Atlantic Ocean. N. Am. J. Fish. Manag. 22, 106–121 (2002)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Swain, D. P. & Chouinard, G. A. Predicted extirpation of the dominant demersal fish in a large marine ecosystem: Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 65, 2315–2319 (2008)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Peckham, S. H. et al. Small-scale fisheries bycatch jeopardizes endangered Pacific loggerhead turtles. PLoS ONE 2, e1041 (2007)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  25. Lewison, R. L. & Crowder, L. B. Estimating fishery bycatch and effects on a vulnerable seabird population. Ecol. Appl. 13, 743–753 (2003)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Halpern, B. S. et al. Mapping cumulative human impacts to California Current marine ecosystems. Conserv. Lett. 2, 138–148 (2009)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Hays, G. C. et al. Satellite telemetry suggests high levels of fishing-induced mortality in marine turtles. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 262, 305–309 (2003)

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  28. Heupel, M. & Simpfendorfer, C. Estimation of mortality of juvenile blacktip sharks, Carcharhinus limbatus, within a nursery area using telemetry data. Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 59, 624–632 (2002)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Kurota, H. et al. A sequential Bayesian methodology to estimate movement and exploitation rates using electronic and conventional tag data: application to Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) . Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 66, 321–342 (2009)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Berman-Kowalewski, M. et al. Association between blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) mortality and ship strikes along the California coast. Aquat. Mamm. 36, 59–66 (2010)

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

This manuscript is the culmination of a Census of Marine Life cross-project synthesis between TOPP and Future of Marine Animal Populations (FMAP). Funding for this work was provided by the Sloan Foundation’s Census of Marine Life programme. TOPP research was funded by the Sloan, Packard and Moore foundations. FMAP was funded by the Sloan Foundation. Electronic tagging and tracking in TOPP was also supported by the Office of Naval Research, the NOAA, the E&P Sound and Marine Life JIP under contract from the OGP, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation. We thank the TOPP scientific teams and all those who supported animal tagging efforts, R. Kochevar and D. Kohrs for their dedication and their effort on behalf of the Census of Marine Life. We are grateful to the numerous captains and crews who provided ship time and logistical support, and to the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Hawaii for further logistical support. We thank the Mexican authorities and collaborating TOPP partners (O. Sosa-Nishizki) for permitting and assisting in research in their waters. All animal research was conducted in accordance with IACUC protocols from Stanford University and the University of California.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

This synthesis study was initiated by B.A.B. and I.D.J. The TOPP project was designed and coordinated by B.A.B., D.P.C. and S.J.B. B.A.B., S.J.J., H.D. and K.M.S. designed experiments and deployed electronic tags on fish and sharks. D.P.C., S.A.S., R.W.H., M.J.W. and B.R.M. designed experiments and deployed electronic tags on marine mammals and birds. G.L.S., B.A.B. and S.R.B. designed experiments and deployed electronic tags on sea turtles. Tracking data were compiled by S.J.J., S.A.S., G.A.B., A.-L.H., B.A.B., G.L.S. and M.C. Data management was coordinated by A.S. and J.E.G. Oceanographic data were compiled by S.J.B., E.L.H. and D.G.F. Analyses were conducted by A.J.W., S.J.J., I.D.J., G.A.B, E.L.H., D.G.F., A.-L.H., J.E.G. and A.S. Figures were created by B.A.B., M.C., A.-L.H., I.D.J., S.J.J., A.J.W., J.E.G., A.S., E.L.H. and D.G.F. The manuscript was drafted by B.A.B. and edited by I.D.J., D.P.C., S.J.J., S.A.S., S.J.B., E.L.H., A.-L.H., A.J.W., H.D., G.L.S. and B.R.M.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to B. A. Block.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

The file contains Supplementary Figures 1-13 with legends, Supplementary text, Supplementary Tables 1-11 and additional references. (PDF 7200 kb)

PowerPoint slides

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Block, B., Jonsen, I., Jorgensen, S. et al. Tracking apex marine predator movements in a dynamic ocean. Nature 475, 86–90 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature10082

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/nature10082

This article is cited by

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing