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Keywords:

  • Globicephala melas;
  • long-finned pilot whale;
  • stomach contents;
  • food habits;
  • stranding;
  • Loligo pealei;
  • prey importance

Abstract

Ten prey taxa were recorded from the stomach contents of eight long-finned pilot whales (Globicepbala melas) independently stranded along the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast. Relative importance of prey species was determined by methods that incorporate prey frequencies of occurrence, proportions of numerical abundance, and proportions of reconstructed mass. Separate analyses of trace (free, durable body parts representing well-digested prey items) and non-trace (relatively intact prey specimens) food material were conducted in order to address biases caused by differential rates of digestion and passage through the gastrointestinal tract. Different measures of prey importance yielded varying results, but the long-finned squid (Loligo pealei) was the most important prey species regardless of how prey importance was defined. Fishes were relatively unimportant in the diet. Our results indicate that the diets of western North Atlantic long-finned pilot whales differ substantially from what has been previously reported in the literature and that results from food-habits studies that utilize different techniques may not be comparable.