Santa Cruz Good Times

Sunday
May 24th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Migration Destinations

news_sealDo sea creatures have their own traffic rules?
Beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean, fast-moving highways of migrating predators cross the hemisphere to feed and mate.

Researchers from UC Santa Cruz recently mapped these migratory routes, which intersect in two distinct hotspots—one off the West Coast in the California Current, and the other in the North Pacific Transition Zone between Hawaii and Alaska. Published June 22 by the academic journal Nature, the findings offer the first large-scale analysis of oceanic migratory systems, and provide a glimpse into the critical need for conservation in high-traffic areas.

“We knew that animals migrated to and from certain areas, but we didn’t know the details of their routes,” says Daniel Costa, of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UCSC. “Fishing can be better managed if we know where animals travel, and when they are breeding.”

Over the last decade, Costa and his colleagues placed 4,300 electronic tags on nearly 2,000 animals. The tags relay an animal’s location to satellites, allowing researchers to track species as they swim.

They found that 23 different marine predators cross paths in the two oceanic hotspots. Sometimes different types of predators prefer similar water conditions, and share locations with multiple species. This close predator proximity creates hotspots within biodiversity hotspots.

Researchers discovered that other predators prefer their own space—they feed at different levels or hang out in cooler or warmer waters than their neighbors. When the migratory routes of two species overlap, these habitat preferences help animals share the ocean. This good roommate behavior is important, as most animals return to the same locations year after year.

“Knowing that animals return to the same areas during their migration is very important,” says Costa. “This means any disturbance can potentially impact large numbers of animals from many different species.”

Costa co-founded the Tagging of Pacific Predators (TOPP) program in 2000 with colleagues from Stanford’s Hopkins Marine Station and the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center. With the help of 70 researchers, TOPP employs a variety of state-of-the-art tags. Some measure temperature, salinity and depth, while others detect the light around an animal as it swims through the ocean.

TOPP also perfected methods for tracking tuna, which can’t swim well when tags are strapped to their fins. Tuna also lack hair, which helps scientists glue tags on seals and sea lions—the tags eventually fall off when the hair is shed. By implanting small tags into tuna, TOPP scientists tracked several different species, including Bluefin and yellowfin.

Lightweight tags similarly helped researchers track sooty shearwaters and other seabirds during long flights. As tags add additional weight, they are usually removed from birds after a month. TOPP scientists, in contrast, observed many birds for a full year.

Loggerhead turtles from Japan and Leatherback turtles from Papua New Guinea also pass through the California Current, according to the findings. Leatherbacks make their way to the Monterey Bay and then turn back—a trip that takes a few years to complete. Researchers previously tracked the turtles swimming to the southwest of the Monterey Bay, but they didn’t have a detailed map of the migratory route.

Along with the California Current, many animals cross paths in the North Pacific Transition Zone (NPTZ), says Costa. Here warm and cool currents mix, creating an east-west migration corridor that extends from Japan to Washington State.  The waters provide food for elephant seals, albatrosses, tuna, and other predators. Loggerheads also use the route as part of their migration from Japan to the California Current.

These findings may help policy makers design preserves in international waters, says Guy Oliver, a research fellow at the Long Marine Lab. “Preserves in state waters and coastal areas are helping fisheries come back, but international waters are less understood, and it’s been hard to say which areas are the most important for protection,” says Oliver, who has no affiliation with the study.

The hotspots identified by Costa are located in international waters, and the study details which areas are most important for migration.

Such findings may become increasingly important as climate change continues, forcing animals to travel longer distances in search of food and breeding grounds, says Oliver.

Costa’s findings show that animals are sensitive to changes in water temperature. In 2005, when the oceanographic conditions were warmer than usual, male California sea lions foraged much farther offshore. Female sea lions traveled much farther North. Female sea lions also traveled three times as far to get food, which took them away from their pups. “Usually a female sea lion goes out for two or three days to find food, but when waters were warmer they left for six to seven days,” says Costa.

Next up, Costa and his colleagues want to know how climate change will alter migratory routes and hotspot habitats, and how animals and their food sources might respond to long-term changes in water temperature.

“Animals from Southern California might move northward as temperatures increase in the South, but there aren’t as many island breeding grounds in Northern California,” says Costa. “The next step is to predict how climate change will alter the habitats we just characterized.” 

Comments (2)Add Comment
...
written by Sabrina and paris, July 08, 2011
Wow what wonderful research your doing to protect our marine mammals. We understand that knowledge is power. And we need power to conserve and protect our ocean life that depends on sciencetist to educate the public and big businesses.
How many endangered and extinct species have been saved by researchers and marine biologist?
Keep up the great work and thanks for educating the public on your findings. It's because of knowledge like this, we can make new policies that protect our oceans and keep them clean and healthy.
...
written by sam kim, July 06, 2011
why don't you guys just leave these poor creatures alone and dont put any stuff on them to try to now were they are. what if somebody put a thing on you so they now were you are at all time, wouldn't you hate that? because i now i would. THANK YOU for listening and hopefully you listen to my advise

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Gate Openers

Up-and-coming artists like Ryan Bingham are a great reason to show up early to the Santa Cruz American Music Festival

 

Gemini Sun, Pentecost, Shavuot—Enlightenment and Gladness

As the sun enters Gemini on Sunday, sign of speaking, communication, thinking, inter-relations, writing and understanding languages, the feast days of Pentecost & Shavuot (Catholic and Jewish festivals) occur. During Pentecost’s 50 days after Easter, tongues of fire appear above the heads of the disciples, providing them with the ability to understand all languages and all feelings hidden in the minds and hearts of humanity. It’s recorded that Pentecost began with a loud noise, which happened in an upper room (signifying the mind). The Christ (World Teacher) told his disciples (after his ascension) when encountering a man at a well carrying a water pot (signs for Age of Aquarius) to follow him to an upper room. There, the Holy Spirit (Ray 3 of Divine Intelligence) would overshadow them, expand their minds, give them courage and enable them to teach throughout the world, speaking all languages and thus able to minister to the true needs of a “seeking” humanity. Pentecost (50 days, pentagram, Ray 5, Venus, concrete and scientific knowledge, the Ray of Aquarius) sounds dramatic, impressive and scary: The loud noise, a thunderous rush of wind and then “tongues of fire” above the heads of each disciple (men and women). Fire has purpose. It purifies, disintegrates, purges, transforms and liberates (frees) us from the past. This was the Holy Spirit (Ray 3, love and wisdom) being received by the disciples, so they would teach in the world and inform humanity of the Messiah (Christ), who initiated the new age (Pisces) and gave humanity the new law (adding to the 10 Commandments of the Aries Age) to Love (Ray 2) one another. Note: Gemini is also Ray 2. Shavuot is the Jewish Festival of Gladness, the First Fruits Festival celebrating the giving of the 10 Commandments to Moses as the Aries Age was initiated. Thus, we have two developmental stages here, Jewish festival of the Old Testament. Pentecost of the New Testament. We have gladness, integrating both.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Off Her Meds

Kristin Wiig runs wild—and transcends her sketch comedy roots—as a truly strange character ‘Welcome to Me’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Flats Bistro

Pizza with an artisan twist comes to Aptos Beach

 

What’s your take on Santa Cruz locals?

Santa Cruz locals are really friendly once you know them. I think a lot of them have a hard time leaving, and I would too. Ryan Carle, Santa Cruz, Biologist

 

Soquel Vineyards

If Soquel Vineyards partners Peter and Paul Bargetto and Jon Morgan were walking down the street wearing their winning wine competition medals, you’d hear them coming from a mile away. This year was particularly rewarding for the Bargettos and Morgan—they won two Double Gold Medals and five Gold Medals at January’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

 

Enlightened Flavors

Squash & Blossom’s artisanal alternative-flour delights, beet kvass from Cafe Ivéta, and the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival