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Review of Data on Diets of Beaked Whales: Evidence of Niche Separation and Geographic Segregation

  • C.D. MacLeod (a1), M.B. Santos (a1) and G.J. Pierce (a1)

This study reviewed published data on dietary preferences of beaked whales (Ziphiidae) from stomach contents analysis. Detailed data were only available for three of the six beaked whale genera (Hyperoodon, Mesoplodon and Ziphius). Stomach samples of these three beaked whale genera primarily contained cephalopod and fish remains, although some also contained crustaceans. Mesoplodon spp. were found to contain the most fish, with some species containing nothing but fish remains, while the southern bottlenose whale (Hyperoodon planifrons) and Cuvier's beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris) rarely, if ever, contained fish. Of cephalopods identified, Histioteuthid, Gonatid, Cranchiid and Onychoteuthid species usually contributed most to prey numbers and biomass for all beaked whale genera. There was a wide range of species and families of cephalopods recorded from stomach contents, with no obvious preference for bioluminescent prey species, vertical migrating prey species or prey species with specific body compositions. Whales of the genus Mesoplodon generally contained smaller prey, such as cephalopods under 500 g in weight, compared with other beaked whales. Hyperoodon and Ziphius frequently contained much larger cephalopods with many important prey species having a mean weight of over 1000 g. This suggests that Mesoplodon occupies a separate dietary niche from Hyperoodon and Ziphius, which may be an example of niche segregation. In contrast, Hyperoodon and Ziphius appear to occupy very similar dietary niches but have geographically segregated distributions, with Hyperoodon occupying cold-temperate to polar waters and Ziphius occupying warm-temperate to tropical waters.

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Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom
  • ISSN: 0025-3154
  • EISSN: 1469-7769
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-the-marine-biological-association-of-the-united-kingdom
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