The current status of Antarctic Odontocetes – sperm whales Physeter catodon, killer whales Orcinus orca, long-finned pilot whales Globicephala melaena, hourglass dolphins Lagenorhynchus cruciger and poorly known species of beaked whales (family Ziphiidae)–were studied in Anatarctic waters using data gathered in sighting surveys conducted from 1976/77 to 1987/88. Temporal variation in density demonstrated the different migration patterns by species, especially between sperm whale and killer whale. Spatial distributions during mid-summer demonstrated different peaks of occurrence for each species by latitude that suggest possible segregation between the species. Killer whales occur mainly in the very southernmost areas, sperm whales in the southern half of the study area, beaked whales (mostly southern bottlenose whales Hyperoodon planifrons) ranged over a wide area, and long-finned pilot whales and hourglass dolphins were mainly in the northern regions of Antarctic waters. Several longitudinal peaks of occurrence and apparent distribution gaps were identified for sperm, beaked and killer whales. Abundance estimates for south of the Antarctic Convergence in January are based on line transect theory and were 28 100 animals (coefficient of variation CV 0.18) sperm whales, 599 300 (0.15) beaked whales (mostly southern bottlenose whales), 80 400 (0.15) killer whales, 200 000 (0.35) long-finned pilot whales, and 144 300 (0.17) hourglass dolphins. Based on this, biomass of these species were estimated as 0.77 (sperm whales), 2.70 (beaked whales), 0.32 (killer whales), 0.16 (long-finned pilot whales) and 0.01 (hourglass dolphins) million tonnes. Consumption of food (mostly squid) by the Odontocetes is estimated as 14.4 million tonnes with 67% of the total consumed by beaked whales. Indirect consumption of Antarctic krill through the predation of squid by beaked whales is estimated to be c. 24 million tonnes. This value is similar to the estimate of krill consumption by penguins in the Antarctic (33 million tonnes). Odontocetes, especially southern bottlenose whales, are suggested to have a much greater role in the Antarctic ecosystem than has previously been considered.
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