Publication Date

Summer 2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Moss Landing Marine Laboratories


Alison K. Stimpert


bio-logging, cooperative behavior, demography, foraging ecology, Gulf of Maine, humpback whale

Subject Areas



Studies of fission-fusion societies provide a framework in which to compare the feeding dynamics across demographics, unrestrained by stable associations or relatedness. This study used bio-logger data and surface observations combined with long-term population data from the Gulf of Maine humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae, population to investigate the influence of demographics on feeding methods, and time spent feeding, and to determine if a coordinated feeding method, kick-feeding, was a cooperative behavior. The results suggest that demographics did influence the feeding method used and highlighted the need to determine how energetic needs change across the feeding season. Adult females did not spend more time feeding than males, but engaged more often in bottom-feeding, a difference that could put them at greater risk of entanglement in fishing gear set near the substrate. Additionally, the results suggest that kick-feeding was not a form of cooperation, but rather those dynamics were a product of demographics and local population structure. This study highlights the need to account for demographics when interpreting behavior and behavioral risk from anthropogenic activities.