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Life history of harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) in Scottish (UK) waters

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Abstract

Life history parameters were determined for stranded and bycaught harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) from Scottish (UK) waters (1992–2005). Fetal growth rate was 84.4 mm/mo and mean size at birth was 76.4 cm (range 65–88 cm). Males and females had a similar range of body lengths (65–170 cm and 66–173 cm, respectively), although asymptotic lengths were higher in females than males (approximately 158 cm and 147 cm, respectively). Nonpregnant females were significantly lighter, in relation to their length than males. Maximum estimated age was 20 yr for both sexes. Age at sexual maturity (ASM) was estimated as 4.35 yr in females and 5.00 yr in males. Conception occurred mainly in July and August although reproductively active males were recorded during April to July. Gestation lasted 10–11 mo, with calving mainly between May and July. Lactating females were recorded during June to November, while small calves with solid food in their stomachs were found mainly during February to May. Estimated pregnancy rate (0.34–0.40) is lower than recorded elsewhere, but is likely underestimated due to the prevalence of mature females of poor health status in the sample. Nevertheless, cetacean strandings can be an essential source of data on demographic parameters.

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