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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 353:275-288 (2008)  -  DOI:

Summer spatial distribution of cetaceans in the Strait of Gibraltar in relation to the oceanographic context

Renaud de Stephanis1,2,*, Thomas Cornulier3,4, Philippe Verborgh1,2, Juanma Salazar Sierra1,2, Neus Pérez Gimeno2,5, Christophe Guinet3

1CIRCE, Conservation Information and Research on Cetaceans, C/Cabeza de Manzaneda 3, Algeciras-Pelayo, 11390 Cadiz, Spain
2Sociedad Española de Cetáceos C/Nalon 16, La Berzosa, Madrid, Spain
3Centre d’Études Biologiques de Chizé, CNRS UPR 1934, 79 360 Villiers en Bois, France
4School of Biological Sciences, Zoology Building, Tillydrone Avenue, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB24 2TZ, UK
5Laboratorio de Ingeniería Acústica de la Universidad de Cádiz (LAV), CASEM, Río de San Pedro S/N, Puerto Real, Cádiz, Spain

ABSTRACT: The Strait of Gibraltar, the only passage between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, and characterised by a surface inflow of Atlantic waters and a deep outflow of Mediterranean waters, is inhabited by a large number of cetacean species. The present study focuses on the occurrence and the spatial distribution of cetacean species within the strait in relation to oceanographic features. Shipboard visual surveys were conducted during the summers of 2001 to 2004, covering 4926 km. A total of 616 sightings of 7 cetacean species were made. The spatial distributions of 6 species (short-beaked common dolphins Delphinus delphis, striped dolphins Stenella coeruleoalba, bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus, long-finned pilot whales Globicephala melas, sperm whales Physeter macrocephalus and killer whales Orcinus orca) were examined with respect to depth and slope. The analyses indicate that these species could be ordered into 3 groups. A first group, with a northward tendency, is composed of common and striped dolphins. Due to its at-sea location and feeding habits, this group is likely to feed on mesopelagic fishes or squids associated with the surface Atlantic waters. The second group, constituted by bottlenose dolphins, long-finned pilot whales and sperm whales, is mainly found over the deep waters of the central part of the strait. While the foraging ecology of bottlenose dolphins is still unclear, both sperm whales and pilot whales are most likely to feed on squids occurring in deep Mediterranean waters. The third group, formed by killer whales Orcinus orca, was associated with blue fin tuna Thunnus thynnus fisheries in the southwestern part of the strait.

KEY WORDS: Cetacean · Strait of Gibraltar · Spatial distribution · Feeding ecology · Fisheries interaction

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Cite this article as: de Stephanis R, Cornulier T, Verborgh P, Salazar Sierra J, Gimeno NP, Guinet C (2008) Summer spatial distribution of cetaceans in the Strait of Gibraltar in relation to the oceanographic context. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 353:275-288.

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