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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 637:209-223 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13232

Spatial niche partitioning among three small cetaceans in the eastern coastal area of Hokkaido, Japan

Yuka Iwahara*, Hokuto Shirakawa, Kazushi Miyashita, Yoko Mitani

Hokkaido University, 20-5 Benten-cho, Hakodate, Hokkaido 040-0051, Japan
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Spatial niche partitioning of marine mammals is thought to be caused by dietary differences. However, due to the difficulty involved with conducting simultaneous marine predator and prey distribution surveys at the same scale, marine mammals have not been studied alongside their prey distribution. To understand the spatial niche overlap between 3 small cetaceans observed in the eastern coastal waters of Hokkaido, Japan (Pacific white-sided dolphin Lagenorhynchus obliquidens, Dall’s porpoise Phocoenoides dalli, and harbor porpoise Phocoena phocoena), and the mechanisms behind the differences in their distributions, visual and hydroacoustic surveys using a quantitative echosounder were concurrently conducted. A clear spatial niche overlap was observed between the Pacific white-sided dolphin and Dall’s porpoise, whereas the spatial overlap was moderate between the harbor porpoise and the other 2 species. In areas where Pacific white-sided dolphins were observed, potential prey was abundant in a shallower layer, at approximately 80-90 m depth. On the other hand, potential prey was more abundant in deeper layers in areas where Dall’s and harbor porpoises were observed. Water depth affected the potential prey abundance at all depth layers (0-300 m), as potential prey were more abundant in areas with a shallower water depth. Additionally, potential prey were more abundant in shallower layers (3-200 m) than in deeper layers (200-300 m), where the maximum water depth was 3000 m. The differences in spatial niche among Pacific white-sided dolphin, Dall’s porpoise, and harbor porpoise might cause their dietary differences, as they are epipelagic feeders, midwater feeders, and both epipelagic and midwater feeders, respectively.


KEY WORDS: Spatial niche partitioning · Small cetaceans · Prey distribution · Echosounder · Pacific white-sided dolphin · Dall’s porpoise · Harbor porpoises


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Cite this article as: Iwahara Y, Shirakawa H, Miyashita K, Mitani Y (2020) Spatial niche partitioning among three small cetaceans in the eastern coastal area of Hokkaido, Japan. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 637:209-223. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13232

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