NEWPORT, Ore. – An unprecedented decade-long study of apex predators in the Pacific Ocean found a wider range of distribution among some species than previously thought, unknown relationships between other species, and the importance of biological “hotspots” to the survival of most of these sea creatures.
The field program, dubbed Tagging of Pacific Predators – or TOPP – looked at 23 species from 2000-09 and included researchers from multiple institutions.
Results of the study are being published this week in the journal Nature.
“One thing that quickly became apparent is that there are many similarities among top predators in the California Current System,” said Bruce Mate, a former Sea Grant specialist who directs the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University and co-authored the study. “There is a strong overlap in territory, for example, between blue whales and tuna. Blue whales eat krill; the tuna eat fish that eat the krill.
“But the krill, and the ocean conditions that promote its abundance, are key to both species,” added Mate, who directed the cetacean portion of the TOPP study. “When there are hotspots of krill or other food, the apex predators need to find them.”
(Photo credit: Bruce Mate/OSU News & Research Communication)