Distribution of cetaceans in the offshore Gulf of Mexico

Authors

  • T. A. JEFFERSON,

    1. *Marine Mammal Research Program, c/o Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences Texas A & M University, 210 Nagle Hall, College Station, TX 77843 USA
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    • ††Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Ocean Park Corporation, Aberdeen, Hong Kong.

  • A. J. SCHIRO

    1. †Marine Mammal Research Program, Texas A & M University, 4700 Avenue U, Building 303, Galveston, TX 77551 USA
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    • ††Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Ocean Park Corporation, Aberdeen, Hong Kong.


Abstract

In order to comprehend better the distribution of Gulf of Mexico cetaceans, all available records of whales and dolphins in the offshore Gulf were assembled and analysed. This included sightings, strandings and captures of all species, except the Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus, from all sources, except the recently completed GulfCet project. An attempt was made to confirm species identification for each of the records. A total of 1223 records was available for analysis. Twentyseven species of cetaceans have been confirmed to occur in the offshore Gulf of Mexico. All of the baleen whales, with the possible exception of the Bryde's Whale Balaenoptera edeni appear to be extralimital in the Gulf. The Sperm Whale Physeter macrocephalus is, by far, the most common great whale in this body of water. All previous records of Common Dolphins Delphinus spp. in the Gulf are rejected as either incorrect or unreliable, and there is currently no convincing evidence that dolphins of the genus Delphinus occur in the Gulf. The Atlantic Spotted Dolphin Stenella frontalis is the only species, other than the Bottlenose Dolphin, that regularly occurs over the continental shelf. The Pantropical Spotted Dolphin Stenella attenuata is the most common species of small cetacean in oceanic waters of the Gulf, but many other species also occur there in significant numbers.

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