MEPS 300:229-240 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/meps300229

Distribution and habitat characteristics of dolphins of the genus Stenella (Cetacea: Delphinidae) in the southwest Atlantic Ocean

Ignacio B. Moreno1,2,7,*, Alexandre N. Zerbini3, Daniel Danilewicz1,2, Marcos C. de Oliveira Santos4, Paulo C. Simões-Lopes5, Jose Lailson-Brito Jr.6, Alexandre F. Azevedo6

1Grupo de Estudos de Mamíferos Aquáticos do Rio Grande do Sul (GEMARS), Rua Felipe Neri 382/203, Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul 90440-150, Brazil
2Centro de Estudos Costeiros, Limnológicos e Marinhos (CECLIMAR) & Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), Avenida Tramandaí 976, Imbé, Rio Grande do Sul 95625-000, Brazil
3Washington Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, Box 355020, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195-5020, USA
4Projeto Atlantis—Departamento de Ecologia Geral, Instituto de Biociências—USP, Rua do Matão 321, Cidade Universitária, São Paulo, São Paulo 05508-900, Brazil
5Laboratório de Mamíferos Aquáticos, Departamento de Ecologia e Zoologia, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Caixa Postal 5102, Florianópolis, Santa Catarina 88040-970, Brazil
6Laboratório de Mamíferos Aquáticos (MAQUA)/UERJ, Rua São Francisco Xavier 524/4018E, Rio de Janeiro,Rio de Janeiro 20550-013, Brazil
7Present address: Pós-Graduação em Biociências, Laboratório de Ictiologia, Museu de Ciências e Tecnologia/PUCRS, Avenida Ipiranga 6681, Caixa Postal 1429, Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul 90619-900, Brazil

ABSTRACT: The distribution of dolphins of the genus Stenella is poorly known in the southwest Atlantic Ocean. A complete review of records (n = 311) of these dolphin species was performed to describe distribution and habitat. Atlantic spotted dolphins S. frontalis occur in both southern (21 to 33°S) and northern Brazil (north of 06°S), with a hiatus in its distribution off eastern South America. This species presents the highest preference for nearshore habitats, restricted to waters within the 1000 m isobath. Pantropical spotted dolphins S. attenuata are found in tropical waters as far south as 22°S and are mainly observed off northeastern South America. They occur beyond the continental shelf break in depths >850 m. Clymene dolphins S. clymene are distributed in deep waters (1390 to 4500 m) as far south as 30°S. Strandings are more common where the continental shelf is narrower. Spinner dolphins S. longirostris are found in oceanic waters as far south as 30°S. They inhabit tropical waters over the shelf and slope (depths ranging from 170 to 2700 m). The striped dolphin S. coeruleoalba is the least known species of the genus in the western South Atlantic. Most records are from temperate waters in southern Brazil and Argentina. The distributions of S. attenuata, S. clymene and S. longirostris overlap to a great extent and are predominantly oceanic and associated with warm ocean currents. S. frontalis seems to prefer a different, coastal habitat, influenced both by warm currents and upwelling areas. The discontinuous distribution of this species suggests that an isolated population inhabits the southern coast of Brazil.

KEY WORDS: Stenella · Atlantic Ocean · Brazil · Uruguay · Argentina · Distribution · Habitat characteristics

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