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Are white-beaked dolphins Lagenorhynchus albirostris food specialists? Their diet in the southern North Sea

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 September 2010

Okka E. Jansen*
Affiliation:
Wageningen University, Department of Aquatic Ecology & Waterquality Management, Droevendaalsesteeg 3a, 6708 PB Wageningen, The Netherlands Wageningen IMARES, Department of Ecology, Landsdiep 4, 1797 SZ ‘t Horntje, The Netherlands
Mardik F. Leopold
Affiliation:
Wageningen IMARES, Department of Ecology, Landsdiep 4, 1797 SZ ‘t Horntje, The Netherlands
Erik H.W.G. Meesters
Affiliation:
Wageningen IMARES, Department of Ecology, Landsdiep 4, 1797 SZ ‘t Horntje, The Netherlands
Chris Smeenk
Affiliation:
National Museum of Natural History, PO Box 9517, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
*
Correspondence should be addressed to: O.E. Jansen, Wageningen University, Department of Aquatic Ecology & Waterquality Management, Droevendaalsesteeg 3a, 6708 PB Wageningen, The Netherlands email: okka.jansen@wur.nl

Abstract

The white-beaked dolphin Lagenorhynchus albirostris is the most numerous cetacean after the harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena in the North Sea, including Dutch coastal waters. In this study, the diet of 45 white-beaked dolphins stranded on the Dutch coast between 1968 and 2005 was determined by analysis of stomach contents. Although 25 fish species were identified, the diet was dominated by Gadidae (98.0% by weight, 40.0% in numbers), found in all stomachs. All other prey species combined contributed little to the diet by weight (2.0%W). The two most important prey species were whiting Merlangius merlangus (91.1% frequency of occurrence (FO), 30.5%N, 37.6%W) and cod Gadus morhua (73.3%FO, 7.4%N, 55.9%W). In numbers, gobies were most common (54.6%N), but contributed little to the diet by weight (0.6%W). Three stomachs contained different prey compared to the others: one animal had taken 2250 gobies, accounting for 96.4% of all gobies found; one animal had fed on 29 small sepiolids; and one animal had solely taken haddock Melanogrammus aeglefinus. Squid and haddock were not found in any other stomach. The overall diet showed a lasting predominance of whiting and cod, without clear changes over time (35 years) or differences between sexes or size-classes of dolphins. This study adds to earlier published and unpublished data for Dutch coastal waters and agrees well with studies of white-beaked dolphins from other parts of the species’ range, in the North Sea and in Canadian waters, with Gadidae dominating the diet on both sides of the Atlantic.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 2010

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