Research Output

Estimating the mortality rate of humpback whale calves in the central North Pacific ocean.

  Sighting histories of individually identified female humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) in their winter and summer ranges were used to investigate mortality of North Pacific humpback whale calves. We compiled records collected between 1979 and 1995 by eight independent research groups, which yielded 29 cases where 25 different mothers sighted in Hawai'i were identified later the same year in Alaska. In 7 of 29 cases, a calf sighted with its mother in Hawai'i was missing from its mother's Alaska sighting(s). After investigating many factors, we determined that the largest potential bias would occur in late-autumn observations, when calf absences might indicate weaning or temporary mother–calf separation rather than calf mortality. Our minimal and most robust estimate excluded all mortalities and survivals based on sightings of the mother after October 31; 3 of 20 cases or 0.150 (95% confidence intervals (CI) = 0.032, 0.378). The maximal calf mortality rate, derived from all the available data, was 7 of 29 cases or 0.241 (95% CI = 0.103, 0.434). An intermediate estimate that excluded all cases based on single Alaska sightings and omitted late-season sightings (2 of 11 cases or 0.182; 95% CI = 0.023, 0.518) is perhaps closest to the actual first-year mortality rate for humpback whale calves, although it is compromised by its small sample size. Our results demonstrate both the value and the limitations of using longitudinal data to determine the life-history parameters that are essential for documenting the recovery of endangered populations.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    30 November 2000

  • Publication Status:


  • Publisher

    N R C Research Press

  • DOI:


  • ISSN:


  • Library of Congress:

    QL Zoology


Gabriele, C. M., Straley, J. M., Mizroch, S. A., Baker, C. S., Craig, A. S., Herman, L. M., …Jacobsen, J. K. (2000). Estimating the mortality rate of humpback whale calves in the central North Pacific ocean. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 79, 589-600. doi:10.1139/cjz-79-4-589. ISSN 0008-4301



Humpback whales; Calf mortality; Winter range sightings; Summer range sightings; Survey; Life-histories; Statistics; Population recovery;

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