The habitat preferences of marine mammals west of Scotland (UK)

Colin D. MacLeod, Caroline R. Weir, Chris Pierpoint, Edward J. Harland

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47 Citations (Scopus)


This study used classification and regression trees (CART) to investigate and compare the habitat preferences of marine mammals in this area. Data were collected in early summer (June/July) in 2004 and 2005 and the distribution of marine mammal species Was compared to 10 ecogeographic variables (EGVs). Of 13 species of marine mammals sighted during the study, there were sufficient sightings to examine the habitat preferences of seven. For all species a measure of 'shelf tendency' (distance to coast or water depth) was all important variable and the species could he separated into two groups, the deep-water species and the shelf species, with little overlap between them. The Occurrence of both deep-water species (long-finned Pilot whales and Atlantic white-sided dolphins) was also related to dynamic variables such as sea surface temperature (SST) or primary productivity. Two of the shelf species (northern minke whales and grey seals) were only linked to topographic variables and were limited to quite specific habitats. A third species (harbour porpoise) was primarily related to topographic variables, but in the shallowest waters was also related to local variation in SST. The occurrence of the final two species (common and white-beaked dolphins) was linked to SST and local primary productivity. However, while both species preferentially occurred in areas with higher productivity, the two species differed in their preference for SST, with common dolphins preferentially occurring in warmer waters and white-beaked dolphins in colder waters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-164
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2007


  • cetacean community
  • climate-change
  • north


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