• foraging strategy;
  • scattering layer;
  • behavior;
  • acoustic survey;
  • dusky dolphins;
  • Lgenorhynchus obscurus;
  • mesopelagic prey


Active-acoustic surveys were used to determine the distribution of dusky dolphins and potential prey in two different New Zealand locations. During seven survey days off Kaikoura Canyon, dusky dolphins were found within the DeepScattering Layer (DSL) at 2000 when it rose to within 125 m of the surface. As the DSL rose to 30 m at 0100, the observed depth of dolphins decreased, presumably as the dolphins followed the vertical migration of their prey. Acoustically identified subgroups of coordinated animals ranged from one to five dolphins. Time, depth of layer, and layer variance contributed significantly to predicting foraging dusky dolphin subgroup size. In the much shallower and more enclosed Admiralty Bay, dolphins noted at the surface as foraging were always detected with the sonar, but were never observed in coordinated subgroups during the brief (two-day) study there. In Admiralty Bay dolphin abundance was correlated with mean volume scattering from potential prey in the water column; and when volume scattering, an index of prey density, was low, dolphins were rarely present. Ecological differences between the deep waters of Kaikoura Canyon and the shallow nearshore waters of Admiralty Bay may result in differences in how, when, and in what social groupings dusky dolphins forage.