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The diet of sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) in southern Australian waters


Evans, K and Hindell, MA, The diet of sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) in southern Australian waters, ICES Journal of Marine Science, 61, (8) pp. 1313-1329. ISSN 1054-3139 (2004) [Refereed Article]

DOI: doi:10.1016/j.icesjms.2004.07.026


Stomach contents were collected from 36 sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) involved in two mass stranding events during February 1998 along the west coastline of Tasmania, Australia. Contents were dominated by oceanic cephalopods, with a total of 101 883 cephalopod beaks representing 48 species from 14 families of Teuthids, two species from two families of Octopods, and a single Vampyromorph species identified. Species diversity was higher in these animals than other sperm whales studied in the southern hemisphere, with samples containing an average of (±s.d.) 28.4 ± 11.1 species per sample. Diet samples were dominated by subtropical and muscular cephalopod species. Members of the family Histioteuthidae were the most important numerically, and were also important in terms of estimated reconstituted mass, although members of the Onychoteuthidae were the most dominant species in samples in terms of estimated reconstituted mass. Other families numerically important to species composition included the cranchiid, lepidoteuthid, onychoteuthid, and pholidoteuthid families, while the architeuthid, pholidoteuthid, and ommastrephid families were also important in terms of reconstituted mass. Cephalopod species composition varied with stranding site and with sex, but not with age. However, differences did not represent systemic variation with groups marked by high individual variability. Lower rostral lengths of all cephalopod species ranged from 1.3 to 40.7 mm. Calculated dorsal mantle lengths from all species ranged from 10.7 to 2640.7 mm (mean ± s.d. = 233.7 ± 215.7 mm) and estimated wet weights of cephalopod prey ranged from 2.7 to 110 233.1 g (mean ± s.d. = 828.3 ± 3073.6 g). While there were differences in the size of some cephalopod species between stranding sites and with age, this was marked by high individual variability. Differences in diet composition and prey size between sperm whales reflect individual variability in foraging success and perhaps also foraging groups related to the social structure of this species. © 2004 International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Earth Sciences
Research Group:Oceanography
Research Field:Physical oceanography
Objective Division:Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Natural Hazards
Objective Group:Understanding climate change
Objective Field:Climate variability (excl. social impacts)
UTAS Author:Evans, K (Dr Karen Evans)
UTAS Author:Hindell, MA (Professor Mark Hindell)
ID Code:32081
Year Published:2004
Web of Science® Times Cited:58
Deposited By:TAFI - Zoology
Deposited On:2004-08-01
Last Modified:2005-04-20

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