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Keywords:

  • niche differentiation;
  • stomach content;
  • diet partitioning;
  • Risso's dolphin;
  • Fraser's dolphin;
  • pantropical spotted dolphin;
  • Taiwan

Abstract

Food is one of the most important dimensions of resource partitioning for species coexistence. In this study, we investigated the dietary composition and foraging habits of three sympatric odontocetes in order to identify their levels of food niche overlap and ecological separation. Stomach content analysis was performed on samples collected from carcasses confiscated by police or entangled in gill nets from 1994 to 2001, including 27 Risso's dolphins (GG) (Grampus griseus), 27 Fraser's dolphins (LH) (Lagenodelphis hosei), and 45 pantropical spotted dolphins (SA) (Stenella attenuata). GG consumed only cephalopods, with Enoploteuthis chunii accounting for 90.5% of total prey consumed, LH fed on mesopelagic fishes and cephalopods, dominated by hatchetfish, Polyipnus stereope (50.2%), and SA ate both mesopelagic and epipelagic preys, primarily fishes of Myctophum asperum (20.3%) and squids of E. chunii (25.8%). Among the three odontocetes, GG had the narrowest dietary niche width, while SA had the widest width. Both the niche overlap index and the analysis of similarities (ANOSIM) showed significant diet differentiation among these three dolphin species. The depth distribution of their principal prey items further suggests that LH feeds in the deepest waters while SA utilizes prey resources near surface.