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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 577:221-235 (2017)  -  DOI:

Lunar cycles affect common dolphin Delphinus delphis foraging in the Southern California Bight

Anne E. Simonis1,*, Marie A. Roch1,2, Barbara Bailey2, Jay Barlow3, Rachel E. S. Clemesha1, Sam Iacobellis1, John A. Hildebrand1, Simone Baumann-Pickering1

1Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA
2San Diego State University, San Diego, CA 92182, USA
3NOAA, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: In the Southern California Bight, the common dolphin Delphinus delphis is the most abundant dolphin species and preys upon small pelagic fish, mesopelagic fish, and cephalopods. Mesopelagic fish and many cephalopods are available throughout the year, and they form deep scattering layers, some of which characteristically undergo strong diel vertical migrations. The extent of vertical migration depends on the degree of sea surface solar and lunar illumination. At their daytime depth, mesopelagic prey are beyond the range of shallow-diving dolphins. Autonomous acoustic recorders were used to monitor dolphin echolocation at 2 offshore recording locations from 2009 to 2014. Manual and automated classification techniques were used to identify periods of high echolocation activity, indicative of common dolphin foraging. Clear lunar patterns existed in cool months, when echolocation activity was highest during the darkest periods of the night and lunar month, indicating times when dolphins were foraging, possibly on mesopelagic prey. Echolocation was more abundant during warm months, but diel and lunar patterns in echolocation were weaker. Generalized additive mixed models show that the observed patterns in echolocation activity are correlated with lunar day and position of the moon in the night sky. Seasonal patterns may represent geographic shifts in common dolphin populations, shoaling scattering layers, or prey switching behavior during the warm months, whereby dolphins target small pelagic fish not associated with the deep scattering layers. Overall, dolphin foraging activity declined from 2009 to 2014 during warm months, which may be related to a declining abundance of small pelagic fish.

KEY WORDS: Dolphins · Foraging · Lunar cycle · Echolocation · Deep scattering layers · Mesopelagic

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Cite this article as: Simonis AE, Roch MA, Bailey B, Barlow J and others (2017) Lunar cycles affect common dolphin Delphinus delphis foraging in the Southern California Bight. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 577:221-235.

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