Abstract Changes in the body condition of Antarctic minke whales ( Balaenoptera bonaerensis ) have been investigated in a number of studies, but remain contested. Here we provide a new analysis of body condition measurements, with particularly careful attention to the statistical model building and to model selection issues. We analyse body condition data for a large number (4704) of minke whales caught between 1987 and 2005. The data consist of five different variables related to body condition (fat weight, blubber thickness and girth) and a number of temporal, spatial and biological covariates. The body condition variables are analysed using linear mixed-effects models, for which we provide sound biological motivation. Further, we conduct model selection with the focused information criterion (FIC), reflecting the fact that we have a clearly specified research question, which leads us to a clear focus parameter of particular interest. We find that there has been a substantial decline in body condition over the study period (the net declines are estimated to 10% for fat weight, 7% for blubber thickness and 3% for the girth). Interestingly, there seems to be some differences in body condition trends between males and females and in different regions of the Antarctic. The decline in body condition could indicate major changes in the Antarctic ecosystem, in particular, increased competition from some larger krill-eating whale species.
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