SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • pygmy sperm whale;
  • Kogia breviceps;
  • cetaceans;
  • diet;
  • cephalopods;
  • Northeast Atlantic

Abstract

Little is known about the feeding ecology of pygmy sperm whales (Kogia breviceps) in the Northeast Atlantic. Results are presented on the stomach contents of five whales stranded on the Galician coast (NW Spain) between 1995 and 2002 and seven whales stranded on the French Atlantic coast between 1984 and 2001. These results are compared with those obtained from the stomach contents of two pygmy sperm whales (a pregnant female and her calf ) stranded on the Scottish (UK) coast in 1999, the first records of the species in Scotland. In 13 out of 14 cases, food remains consisted almost entirely of cephalopod beaks, although some crustacean and fish remains were also present. In all the Spanish specimens, the identified prey were oceanic species: the cephalopods Histioteuthis reversa, H. bonnellii, Todarodes sagittatus, the viperfish Chauliodus sloani, and the giant mysid Gnatophausia sp. The same cephalopod species were found in the stomachs of the whales stranded in Scotland, although both whales had also consumed neritic cephalopod species such as Rossia macrosoma and other sepiolids. In the French specimens, almost all prey identified were oceanic cephalopods (H. reversa, Brachioteuthis riseii, T. sagittatus, Taonius pavo, etc.), but remains of crustaceans and a neritic squid (Loligo forbesi) were also found. One whale from France had eaten mainly Henslow's swimming crab (Polybius henslowi). Results from the present study are consistent with those found by other authors in the Azores and the Canary Islands in that pygmy sperm whales appear to be mainly teuthophagous, with histioteuthid squids forming an important part of the diet. Strandings records suggest that occurrence of pygmy sperm whales in the NE Atlantic may be seasonal, with most strandings occurring in autumn and winter.