Food habits of Sowerby’s beaked whales (Mesoplodon bidens) taken in the pelagic drift gillnet fishery of the western North Atlantic
Wenzel, Frederick W.
Polloni, Pamela T.
Craddock, James E.
Gannon, Damon P.
Nicolas, John R.
Read, Andrew J.
Rosel, Patricia E.
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We describe the food habits of the Sowerby’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon bidens) from observations of 10 individuals taken as bycatch in the pelagic drift gillnet fishery for Swordfish (Xiphias gladius) in the western North Atlantic and 1 stranded individual from Kennebunk, Maine. The stomachs of 8 bycaught whales were intact and contained prey. The diet of these 8 whales was dominated by meso- and benthopelagic fishes that composed 98.5% of the prey items found in their stomachs and cephalopods that accounted for only 1.5% of the number of prey. Otoliths and jaws representing at least 31 fish taxa from 15 families were present in the stomach contents. Fishes, primarily from the families Moridae (37.9% of prey), Myctophidae (22.9%), Macrouridae (11.2%), and Phycidae (7.2%), were present in all 8 stomachs. Most prey were from 5 fish taxa: Shortbeard Codling (Laemonema barbatulum) accounted for 35.3% of otoliths, Cocco’s Lanternfish (Lobianchia gemellarii) contributed 12.9%, Marlin-spike (Nezumia bairdii) composed 10.8%, lanternfishes (Lampanyctus spp.) accounted for 8.4%; and Longfin Hake (Phycis chesteri) contributed 6.7%. The mean number of otoliths per stomach was 1196 (range: 327–3452). Most of the fish prey found in the stomachs was quite small, ranging in length from 4.0 to 27.7 cm. We conclude that the Sowerby’s beaked whales that we examined in this study fed on large numbers of relatively small meso and benthopelagic fishes that are abundant along the slope and shelf break of the western North Atlantic.
This paper is not subject to U.S. copyright. The definitive version was published in Fishery Bulletin 111 (2013): 381-389, doi:10.7755/FB.111.4.7.
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