Ecological niche segregation among five toothed whale species off the NW Iberian Peninsula using ecological tracers as multi-approach

Paula Mendez-Fernandez*, Graham J. Pierce, Paco Bustamante, Tiphaine Chouvelon, Marisa Ferreira, Angel F. Gonzalez, Alfredo Lopez, Fiona L. Read, M. Begona Santos, Jerome Spitz, Jose V. Vingada, Florence Caurant

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


This study aims to assess niche segregation among the five main toothed whales that frequent the NW Iberian Peninsula waters: the common dolphin, the harbour porpoise, the bottlenose dolphin, the striped dolphin and the long-finned pilot whale. We used cadmium (Cd) and stable isotope ratios (delta C-13 and delta N-15) as ecological tracers to assess degree of segregation in diet/trophic level and in foraging habitat, over various time-scales. delta C-13 values highlighted different habitats, while Cd concentrations highlighted feeding differences between oceanic and neritic species. Moreover, delta N-15 values suggest different trophic levels of prey targeted within oceanic and neritic species. Hence, results revealed long-term ecological segregation among five toothed whales that coexist in the NWIP and demonstrated the ability of ecological tracers to discriminate ecological niches among closely related species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2825-2840
Number of pages16
JournalMarine Biology
Issue number11
Early online date11 Jun 2013
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013


  • stable-isotope analysis
  • bottle-nosed dolphins
  • North-West Spain
  • marine mammals
  • habitat preferences
  • tursiops-truncatus
  • sepia-officinalis
  • delphinus-delphis
  • Galician Waters
  • feeding ecology

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