SST fronts and the summer sperm whale distribution in the north-west Mediterranean Sea

University of Liège, Luik, Walloon, Belgium
Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the UK (Impact Factor: 1.13). 02/2007; 87(1):187-193. DOI: 10.1017/S0025315407054689

ABSTRACT The relative distribution of sperm whales (Physeler macrocephalus) and sea surface temperature (SST) fronts have been studied in summer in the north-western Mediterranean Sea. We used passive acoustic data (778 samples) obtained offshore during dedicated surveys between 1999 and 2004 and Pathfinder/Modis remote sensing data to compute front maps and to calculate mean distances from sperm whale detections (N=132) to SST-fronts. Mean distances from sperm whale acoustic detections to SST fronts were significantly lower (10.4 km) than from other acoustic samples to those fronts (17.0 km). The same result was obtained when calculating distances from sperm whales to the North Balearic Front surface signature. If sperm whales are commonly observed along the continental slope, we showed that offshore individuals were located close to SST fronts. This bimodal distribution in the north-western Mediterranean is linked to sperm whale feeding,, demonstrating ecological opportunistic behaviour in this high level predator.

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