MEPS 567:199-210 (2017)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12046

Intra- and interspecific niche partitioning in striped and common dolphins inhabiting the southwestern Mediterranean Sea

Joan Giménez1,*, Ana Cañadas2, Francisco Ramírez1, Isabel Afán3, Susana García-Tiscar4, Carolina Fernández-Maldonado5, Juan José Castillo6, Renaud de Stephanis7

1Department of Conservation Biology, Estación Biológica de Doñana - Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (EBD-CSIC), Américo Vespucio s/n, Isla de la Cartuja, 41092 Seville, Spain
2Alnilam Research and Conservation, Pradillos 29, 28491 Navacerrada, Madrid, Spain
3Laboratorio de SIG y Teledetección (LAST), Estación Biológica de Doñana - Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (EBD-CSIC), Americo Vespucio s/n, Isla de la Cartuja, 41092 Seville, Spain
4Department of Ecology, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Ciudad Universitaria de Cantoblanco, 28049 Madrid, Spain
5Agencia de Medio Ambiente y Agua de Andalucía, Consejería de Medio Ambiente y Ordenación del Territorio, Junta de Andalucía, Johann G. Gutenberg 1, Isla de la Cartuja, 41092 Seville, Spain
6Centro de Recuperación de Especies Marinas Amenazadas (CREMA), Aula del Mar de Málaga, Pacífico 80, 29004 Málaga, Spain
7Conservation, Information and Research on Cetaceans (CIRCE), Cabeza de Manzaneda 3, Algeciras-Pelayo, 11390 Cádiz, Spain
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Community structure and functioning is shaped by resource partitioning between co-occurring species. Niche differentiation among sympatric species can be reached through trophic, spatial or temporal segregation to avoid competitive exclusion. Intraspecific segregation in the use of habitats and resources might determine, in turn, a population’s niche width and interspecific segregation. The Alboran Sea is the only area in the Mediterranean where common and striped dolphins coexist abundantly. Therefore, these putative competing species provided the opportunity to investigate niche partitioning through spatial modelling and trophic analysis. Density surface modelling and nitrogen and carbon stable isotopes (δ15N and δ13C) were used to investigate spatial and trophic niche partitioning at inter- and intraspecific levels. The 2 species showed high isotopic overlap. However, we could not rule out the possibility of interspecific trophic segregation, as isotopic similarity does not necessarily mean true ecological or dietary similarity. Among conspecifics, variations in δ15N and δ13C values with dolphin length pointed to ontogenetic dietary changes in striped dolphins, while sex played only a minor role in δ13C values. Spatially, these species tended to segregate their core areas of distribution, with common dolphins being more coastal than striped dolphins, which occupied adjacent, deeper waters. Overall, the main enabler for the coexistence of common and striped dolphins in the Alboran Sea was spatial segregation.


KEY WORDS: Stable isotopes · Spatial modelling · Niche partitioning · Co-occurring species · Segregation · Stenella coeruleoalba · Delphinus delphis


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Cite this article as: Giménez J, Cañadas A, Ramírez F, Afán I and others (2017) Intra- and interspecific niche partitioning in striped and common dolphins inhabiting the southwestern Mediterranean Sea. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 567:199-210. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12046

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