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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 563:249-259 (2017)  -  DOI:

Multi-approach analysis to assess diet of harbour porpoises Phocoena phocoena in the southern North Sea

Céline Mahfouz1,*, Tarik Meziane2, Françoise Henry3,4,5, Carine Abi-Ghanem1,6, Jérôme Spitz7, Thierry Jauniaux8,9, Thibaut Bouveroux10,11, Gaby Khalaf1, Rachid Amara3,4,5

1CNRS, National Centre for Marine Sciences, PO Box 534, Batroun, Lebanon
2Unité Mixte de Recherche Biologie des organismes et écosystèmes aquatiques (BOREA UMR 7208), Sorbonne Universités, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Université de Caen Basse-Normandie, CNRS, IRD, CP53, 61 rue Buffon, 75005 Paris, France
3University of Lille Nord de France, 59650 Villeneuve-d’Ascq, France
4Laboratoire d’Océanologie et de Géosciences, Université du Littoral, 62930 Wimereux, France
5CNRS, UMR 8187, 62930 Wimereux, France
6Faculté des Sciences 3, Université Libanaise, Tripoli, Lebanon
7Observatoire PELAGIS - Système d’Observation pour la Conservation des Mammifères et Oiseaux Marins, UMS 3462, CNRS/Université de La Rochelle, 17000 La Rochelle, France
8Department of Pathology, Fundamental and Applied Research for Animals and Health (FARAH), Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, B43, Liège University, 4000 Liège, Belgium
9Operational Directorate Natural Environment, Royal Belgian Institute of National Sciences, Gulledelle 100, 1200 Brussels, Belgium
10Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Coastal and Marine Research Institute, PO Box 77000, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
11Observatoire pour la Conservation et l’Etude des Animaux et Milieux Marins - OCEAMM, 59123 Zuydcoote, France
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Over the past decade, the distribution of harbour porpoises Phocoena phocoena has undergone a southward shift in the North Sea, which has led to an increase in the number of stranded porpoises in its southern part. Since the changes in distribution and relative abundance of porpoises may be linked to the changes in prey availability, the aim of the present work was to investigate whether any changes in the feeding habits of harbour porpoises along the North Sea occurred in the past decade. The diet of harbour porpoises stranded along the southern North Sea (northern France and Belgian coast) was assessed through 3 complementary methods: stomach content analysis, stable isotopes (carbon and nitrogen) analysis determined from muscle samples, and fatty acids analysis determined from blubber samples. Fatty acid patterns and stable isotope values from 52 porpoises were compared to 14 potential prey species collected from the southern North Sea. Our results showed that the diet of porpoises along the southern North Sea comprises fish species that are among the most abundant and widely distributed in the area, except for the sardine Sardina pilchardus that appeared to be a new potential prey. Moreover, our results suggested that the decline in sandeel (Ammodytidae) in the northern parts of the North Sea along with the re-invasion of the southern North Sea by sardine species might affect the distribution of harbour porpoises.

KEY WORDS: Harbour porpoises · North Sea · Distribution · Foraging ecology · Stomach contents · Stable isotopes · Fatty acids

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Cite this article as: Mahfouz C, Meziane T, Henry F, Abi-Ghanem C and others (2017) Multi-approach analysis to assess diet of harbour porpoises Phocoena phocoena in the southern North Sea. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 563:249-259.

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