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Stomach contents of mass-stranded short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) from North Carolina

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Abstract

We examined the stomach contents of 27 short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) that mass stranded on the North Carolina coast on 15 January 2005. Eleven whales had prey parts in their forestomachs. We used frequency of occurrence and numerical abundance to assess the relative importance of prey. Brachioteuthis riisei (numerical abundance 28%), an oceanic species, was the most important cephalopod prey, but Taonius pavo (12%) and Histioteuthis reversa (9%) also represented a substantial part of the diet. A large number of otoliths belonging to the fish Scopelogadus beanii were present (25%). These results differ from reports of the stomach contents of short-finned pilot whales from the Pacific coast in which neritic species dominate the diet. Our findings also suggest that there is a considerable difference between the diet of short- and long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas) in the western North Atlantic. The latter feed predominantly on the long-finned squid (Loligo pealei) whereas the former feed on deep-water species. Our results indicate the whales fed primarily off the continental shelf prior to stranding.

Ancillary