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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 720:1-24 (2023)  -  DOI:

Spatial and temporal separation of toothed whales in the western North Atlantic

Rebecca E. Cohen1,2,*, Kaitlin E. Frasier1, Simone Baumann-Pickering1, John A. Hildebrand1

1Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093, USA
2Present address: K. Lisa Yang Center for Conservation Bioacoustics, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14850, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: A diverse group of toothed whale species inhabits the pelagic habitats of the western North Atlantic, competing for overlapping prey resources. Historical data deficits have limited fundamental research into many of these species, such as establishing baselines of distribution and abundance, so their occurrence and habitat use patterns are not well characterized. Periodic cycles in activity have been reported at a range of temporal scales for odontocetes in other regions, such as seasonal movements, foraging activity modulated by lunar cycles, and diel activity patterns. A variety of spatial, temporal, and behavioral separation strategies have also been observed among predator guilds in both marine and terrestrial systems, and these may also contribute to observed spatiotemporal patterns in activity. Recently, passive acoustic data has been applied to monitor odontocete species continuously, with improved detection and species discrimination for some cryptic species. We used a long-term passive acoustic data set collected at sites spanning the western North Atlantic shelf-break region to quantify presence and characterize seasonal, lunar, and diel activity patterns for 10 species. Our results demonstrated strong regional preferences and clear patterns of spatiotemporal separation between species with similar foraging ecology. Latitudinal shifts in seasonal presence peaks may suggest meridional seasonal migrations for some dolphin species. We also observed strong diel activity patterns that were modulated by both seasonal and lunar cycles. This study reveals complex behavioral patterns arising in response to natural cycles playing out over multiple temporal scales and provides new insights into habitat partitioning among toothed whale species.

KEY WORDS: Bioacoustics · Odontocetes · Seasonal pattern · Diel rhythms · Lunar cycle · Distributional patterns

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Cite this article as: Cohen RE, Frasier KE, Baumann-Pickering S, Hildebrand JA (2023) Spatial and temporal separation of toothed whales in the western North Atlantic. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 720:1-24.

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