THE DIET OF GALÁPAGOS SPERM WHALES PHYSETER MACROCEPHALUS AS INDICATED BY FECAL SAMPLE ANALYSIS

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Abstract

Fecal samples were collected while following sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) off the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador. They contained 133 upper beaks and 164 lower beaks of cephalopods. Analysis of the lower beaks suggests that the sperm whales fed primarily on three genera of cephalopods; Histioteutbis (62%), Ancistrocbeirus (16%), and Octopoteutbis (7%). The beak dimensions indicate that the cephalopods ranged in mantle length from 5 to 54 cm and in mass from 12 to 650 g. Fecal samples varied significantly between five study years and over different parts of the study area, but the number of beaks collected per sample did not correlate significantly with defecation rate (a measure of feeding success). Using beak material from fecal samples gives a biased estimate of sperm whale diet, reducing the frequencies of very small and very large cephalopods. However, all other available methods of assessing sperm whale diet also possess biases.

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