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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 502:1-10 (2014)  -  DOI:

Effects of a morbillivirus epizootic on long-finned pilot whales Globicephala melas in Spanish Mediterranean waters

Kaja Wierucka1,*, Philippe Verborgh1, Rossa Meade1, Leyla Colmant1, Pauline Gauffier1, Ruth Esteban1, Renaud de Stephanis2, Ana Cañadas3

1CIRCE (Conservation, Information and Research on Cetaceans), C/Cabeza de Manzaneda 3, Algeciras-Pelayo, 11390 Cadiz, Spain
2GEMA (Grupo de Ecología Marina Aplicada), Estación Biológica de Doñana, CSIC, C/Americo Vespucio, s/n,
41092 Isla de la Cartuja, Sevilla, Spain
3Alnilam Research and Conservation, Cándamo 116, 28240 Hoyo de Manzanares, Madrid, Spain
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Long-finned pilot whales Globicephala melas are a commonly encountered species in the Mediterranean Sea. In 2006-2007, an outbreak of the dolphin morbillivirus in the Western Mediterranean resulted in increased mortality of this species. The aim of this study was to determine whether survival rates differed between clusters of Spanish Mediterranean pilot whales, and how the epizootic influenced these survival rates. Photo-identification surveys were conducted between 1992 and 2009. Association indices were used to define clusters of individuals that associate with each other more frequently than with others. Based on a Cormack-Jolly-Seber survival rate model, apparent survival rate estimates varied from 0.821 to 0.995 over 11 clusters for the 1992-2009 period. When the effect of the morbillivirus outbreak was modeled, 3 clusters with distinctly lower survival rates from previous models presented lower estimates after the outbreak (survival rate dropped from 0.919 [95% CI: 0.854-0.956] to 0.547 [95% CI: 0.185-0.866]), suggesting a negative influence of the epizootic or other unknown additive factors on certain clusters. This information is critical for the conservation of long-finned pilot whales, since they are listed as ‘data deficient’ in the Mediterranean Sea by the IUCN and as ‘vulnerable’ in the Spanish National Catalogue of Endangered Species.

KEY WORDS: Long-finned pilot whale · Survival rate · Cormack-Jolly-Seber · Morbillivirus · Mediterranean Sea · Photo-identification

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Cite this article as: Wierucka K, Verborgh P, Meade R, Colmant L and others (2014) Effects of a morbillivirus epizootic on long-finned pilot whales Globicephala melas in Spanish Mediterranean waters. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 502:1-10.

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