Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches, Lectures


Habitat Utilization of Four Cetaceans Along the United States Eastern Coast.

Event Name/Location

74th Annual Meeting of the Florida Academy of Sciences, Fort Pierce, Florida, March 19-20, 2010

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Detailed knowledge of the specific habitat features associated with the spatial distribution of cetacean species can have implications for marine mammal management efforts including the identification of areas with biological significance, minimization of vessel and fisheries interactions, and more accurate abundance estimates. This cetacean habitat study focused on the Mid-Atlantic Bight continental shelf break and slope, a region influenced by variable hydrographic and bathymetric features. Shipboard visual surveys were conducted from June-August 2006 over 4,432 km of trackline. Surface layer hydrographic parameters including water temperature, salinity and fluorescence were collected continually throughout the survey. Additionally, physical data were collected at 406 expendable bathythermograph (XBT) stations and 120 conductivity-temperature-depth (CTD) stations. Zooplankton samples were collected at 57 stations. Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus), pilot whales (Globicephala spp.), bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), and Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) were among the most commonly sighted cetaceans. Temperature-depth profiles from XBT data were examined to determine important features in the water column including the depth of the mixed layer and the depth and temperature at depth of the thermocline. CTD data were similarly examined. Temperature and salinity values at depth were used to generate interpolated values that were extracted for each sighting, and bathymetry data were used to determine the depth and slope percent rise at each sighting. The parameter values associated with each of the four main cetacean species were used to develop predictive habitat models. Analyses of these models show that each species displays specific preferred habitat characteristics based on physical and bathymetric features.



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