Multi-approach analysis to assess diet of harbour porpoises Phocoena phocoena in the southern North Sea

Abstract : Over the past decade, the distribution of harbour porpoises Phocoena phocoena has undergone a southward shift in the North Sea, which has led to an increase in the number of stranded porpoises in its southern part. Since the changes in distribution and relative abundance of porpoises may be linked to the changes in prey availability, the aim of the present work was to investigate whether any changes in the feeding habits of harbour porpoises along the North Sea occurred in the past decade. The diet of harbour porpoises stranded along the southern North Sea (northern France and Belgian coast) was assessed through 3 complementary methods: stomach content analysis, stable isotopes (carbon and nitrogen) analysis determined from muscle samples, and fatty acids analysis determined from blubber samples. Fatty acid patterns and stable isotope values from 52 porpoises were compared to 14 potential prey species collected from the southern North Sea. Our results showed that the diet of porpoises along the southern North Sea comprises fish species that are among the most abundant and widely distributed in the area, except for the sardine Sardina pilchardus that appeared to be a new potential prey. Moreover, our results suggested that the decline in sandeel (Ammodytidae) in the northern parts of the North Sea along with the re-invasion of the southern North Sea by sardine species might affect the distribution of harbour porpoises.
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Submitted on : Friday, August 4, 2017 - 1:56:39 PM
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Céline Mahfouz, Tarik Méziane, Françoise Henry, Carine Abi Ghanem, Jérôme Spitz, et al.. Multi-approach analysis to assess diet of harbour porpoises Phocoena phocoena in the southern North Sea. Marine Ecology Progress Series, Inter Research, 2017, v563 (249-259), ⟨10.3354/meps11952 ⟩. ⟨hal-01572032⟩

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