Do man-made structures and water depth affect the diel rhythms in click recordings of harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena)?

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Abstract

The construction of industrial offshore structures may lead to colonization by a variety of marine organisms resulting in locally enhanced biodiversity and biomass, which may then affect the habitat use and behavior of marine predators. For harbor porpoises high nocturnal echolocation activity was demonstrated near industrial structures and it was hypothesized that this was caused by increased feeding opportunities at night. Here we tested the hypothesis that bridge pillars will lead to more nocturnal echolocation activity by porpoises near them than at positions further away. The daily rhythms in porpoise detections near bridge pillars tended to be slightly more pronounced and a greater proportion of clicks occurred during the night. However, water depth had a greater impact on these rhythms, with more nocturnal porpoise echolocation activity and more pronounced daily rhythms in deeper waters. This may be related to different feeding techniques and prey choice by porpoises in deep and shallow water. In deeper water porpoises may be feeding pelagically on herring and cod, which show more activity and are easier to catch at night. In shallow water they may be targeting mainly gobies using a bottom feeding technique and this may not be more efficient at night.

Ancillary