Arxiu d'etiquetes: cuvier’s beaked whale

Cetaceans have a negative response to summer maritime traffic in Westeran Mediterranean Sea

A team of researchers of several Italian organizations has published on May 2015 its findings about the responses of cetaceans in high sea waters to summer maritime traffic in the Western Mediterranean Sea. This post is a summary of this study. 

INTRODUCTION

Nowadays, cetaceans have to face several threats, like the loss of their habitat, depletion of resources, interaction with fisheries and chemical and acoustic pollution, among others. In the case of ship transport, it can cause long-term changes in distribution, short-term changes in behaviour or direct physical injuries (e. g. collisions).

The Mediterranean Sea is one of the world’s busiest waterways. Moreover, shipping traffic is growing together with the concern of its impacts on fauna. In addition, we have to have in consideration that summer month are the busiest in naval traffic, especially due to the increase on cruise ships and passenger ferries.

The goal of this study was to outcome if the intensity of traffic in high sea waters was statistically different between presence and absence of cetacean sightings.

STUDY AREA AND DATA COLLECTION

Because of most of the Mediterranean cetaceans are mainly pelagic and there is a lack of information in these areas, the research had been conducted along six transects within shipping routes that connects Italy, France and Spain in high sea waters (placed in Ligurian-Provençal basin, the northern and central Tyrrhenian Sea and the Sardinian and Balearic Seas).

Mediterranean Sea basin (Picture from Encylopaedia Britannica)
Mediterranean Sea basin (Picture from Encylopaedia Britannica)

The transects were surveyed from June to September between 2009 and 2013 using ferries as observation platforms. During this period, more than 95,000 km were surveyed and the presence of eight cetacean species was recorded.

Introductory online course on cetaceans. Now, 40% off, till 30th June. Available only in Spanish. More info here. Click the picture to access to the coupon. 

PromoJuny

CETACEANS AND MARITIME TRAFFIC

In locations with cetacean sightings, the number of vessels was 20% lower than the number of vessels in the absence of sightings. In the case of the three most frequently sighted species; fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba) and sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus); this difference was, respectively, 18%, 20% and 2%. Concerning other species, in the case of Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris) the difference was 29% and in the Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus) was 43%. It was found that for bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) the difference was insignificant. Finally, for common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) and for pilot whale (Globicephala melas) any conclusion can be given.

Nevertheless, despite the number of ships recorded during cetacean sightings was lower in all areas, the percentage difference range from 11 to 49% among areas.

So, in high sea areas during summer, where cetaceans were seen, there were a significantly lower abundance of ships. Some explanations can be given: animals could tend to avoid more impacted zones with small displacements by seeking areas with fewer vessels, could change their distribution to occupy low traffic areas or could increase diving activity where intense traffic occurs. The intensity of the response of cetaceans to the intensity of traffic has important differences among areas and species. So, there are several factors that affects this percentage difference, like specific ecological needs and local environmental conditions. 

In the case of fin whale, where marine traffic is intense, the presence of fin whales is generally lower, with the exception occurring in the central part of the Ligurian Sea. The explanation could be that this region is ecologically favourable in summer since it is a feeding ground for this species and these whales are present for feeding reasons. Therefore, there is a coexistence between traffic and fin whales.

Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) (Picture from Circe)
Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) (Picture from Circe)

Another example is striped dolphin. Due to its high mobility, this dolphin can avoid the presence of vessels and this could be the reason why there is a negative response between this species and ship presence.

Striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba) (Picture from Marc Arenas Camps)
Striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba) (Picture from Marc Arenas Camps)

About sperm whale and Cuvier’s beaked whale, there were no difference in both species in the Ligurian Sea and the reason probably is that sperm and Cuvier’s beaked whale have their feeding grounds in this basin and, moreover, the slopes and submarine canyons are confined in specific areas. However, differences are observed in other areas.

Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) (Picture from Gabriel Barathieu).
Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) (Picture: Gabriel Barathieu, Creative Commons).
Cuvier's beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris) (Picture: Todd Pusser, Arkive).
Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris) (Picture: Todd Pusser, Arkive).

Finally, bottlenose dolphin did not show any response to traffic. Probably, because it is a coastal species, it is more used to sharing its typical habitat with maritime traffic.

Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) (Picture: Brandon Cole).
Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) (Picture: Brandon Cole).

REFERENCES

This post has been based on this paper:

  • Campana, I; Crosti, R; Angeletti, D; Carosso, L, David, L; Di-Méglio, N; Moulins, A; Rosso, M; Tepsich, P & Arcangeli, A (2015). Cetacean response to summer maritime traffic in the Western Mediterranean Sea. Marine Environmental Research, 109, 1-8

Difusió-anglès

Anuncis

Cetaceans in the catalan coast

The goal of this publication is to describe the different cetaceans that live in the catalan coast. At first, I will explain you what is a cetacean and then I will describe them.

INTRODUCTION

Cetaceans are a mammal order that live adapted to swimming and, for this reason, they develop all the activities in the water. Most of them live in the sea, but there are a small group that live in fresh water. This adaptation consists on the presence of hydrodynamic bodies to reduce the resistance and the presence of fins (pectorals, dorsal and caudal fins). Cetaceans, as well as the rest of the mammals, are homeotherms (they have physiological mechanisms to keep a constant temperature of the body, known as warm-blooded). Furthermore, they breath air and, for this reason, their nostrils are dorsal, called blowhole. More or less, there are 80 species of cetaceans, subdivided on: odontoceti (toothed cetaceans, which includes dolphins, porpoises, beluga, narwhal, beaked whales and sperm whales) and mysticti (cetaceans without teeth; which includes whales and fin whales).

8 species live in the coast of Catalonia: common bottlenose dolphin, short-beaked common dolphin, striped dolphin, fin whale, sperm whale, Risso’s dolphin, long-finned pilot whale and Cuvier’s beaked whale.

COMMON BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN

Common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) is the most typical dolphin in zoos. We can recognise them for the color of their skin: mainly is grey, but the abdomen is lighter. The dorsal fin is convex. This dolphins usually live in groups of 2 – 15 individuals, but sometimes the groups are composed for several hundreds. They are very acrobatic. Common bottlenose dolphin has the global conservation status of “least concern”, but in the Mediterranean Sea is “vulnerable” (UICN).

Imatge
Common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) (Foto: Sheilapic76, Creative Commons).

SHORT-BEAKED COMMON DOLPHIN

Short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) is easily recognisable for the color patron. Its back is grey or brown with a V drawing under the dorsal fin. In addition, they have a yellowish patch and a grey patch in the sides that form a typical hourglasse figure. They usually live in groups of 10 – 200 individuals. Like, common bottlenose dolphins, they are good acrobats. They are endangered in the Mediterranean Sea, but in global their category from UICN is “least concern”.

Imatge
Short-beacked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) (Foto: Jolene Bertoldi, Creative Commons).

STRIPED DOLPHIN

Striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba) have a brown or grey dorsal fin, moderately high; dark and prominent beak, well distinguished from the melon (a lump of fatty tissue that forms the forehead of toothed whales and tht is thought to function as a means of focusing sound for echolocation); and its back is grey or brown, light grey from the center of each side to dorsal fin and in the subsequent part. Moreover, they have a thin dark line from the beak to the lower part of sides. They normally live in groups of 25 – 100 individuals. They are good acrobats too. Striped dolphin is the most abundant cetacean in the North West of the Mediterranean Sea, but its status is vulnerable here.

Imatge
Striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba) (Foto: 20minutos).

FIN WHALE

Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) is the biggest cetacean of the catalan coast. Fin whales have a high dorsal fin, placed at last third of the body and a wide and flattened head. Their body is long and dark grey without spots, more lighter in the abdomen. You can’t usually see their caudal fin. Their conservation status is “vulnerable” in de Mediterranean Sea, but is “endangered” in global.

rorqual comú
Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) (Foto: UW Today).

SPERM WHALE

Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) is another big cetacean in Mediterranean Sea. The lobes of the tail are wide and triangular, with an important groove; they have an small hump, followed for six protuberances; their head is rounded and represent one third of the body; and their body color is dark grey to brown violet. Their blast is leaning and place a little in the left. They usually swim slowly. Spearm whale is catalogued as “vulnerable” in global for UICN, but in the Mediterranean is “endangered”.

Imatge
Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) (Foto: Advocacy Britannica).

RISSO’S DOLPHIN

Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus), known like grey dolphin too, has a high dorsal fin, long sharp pectoral fins, a rounded head with a bulbous melon, a curved mouth and a grey to brown color, with several marks and lighter abdomen. They usually live in groups of 3 – 30 individuals, but sometimes they live in groups of several miles. Their conservation status is “least concern” in general, but there isn’t enough information for Mediterranean.

Imatge
Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus) (Foto: El hogar natural).

LONG-FINNED PILOT WHALE

Long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas) has a short, wide rounded dorsal fin; high and narrow pectoral fins that mesure a fifth part of the body; a bulbous melon; a short snout; and the color of its body is dark grey, black or brown. They normally live in groups of 10 – 60 individuals. There isn’t enough information to evaluate their conservation status.

Imatge
Long-finned piolt whale (Globicephala melas) (Foto: El hogar natural).

CUVIER’S BEAKED WHALE

Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris) is a species with a little surface activity and for this reason is very hard to see it. Its caudal fin has wide lobes, without a central groove or very small and lightly sickle-shaped. The dorsal fin is placed behind the center of the body. The snout is short, curved and cream-coloured. The color of the body is brown reddish to dark grey, with darker abdomen. They usually live in groups of 2 – 7 members, ocasionally untill 25, but older males normally live alone. There isn’t enough information to evaluate their conservation status.

Imatge
Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostirs) (Foto: Aceytuno).

This are the 8 most tipical species in the coast of Catalonia. I hope that with this small guide you could identify them easily.

REFERENCES

Difusió-anglès