Food and daily food consumption of southern minke whales in the Antarctic
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The stomach contents of 273 southern minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) taken in the region 55°S to the ice-edge and between 105°E and 115°E by a Japanese survey during 1987/88 were examined. The minke whales' dominant feeding ground coincided with a distinctive hydrographic front in the vicinity of the ice-edge at the mouth of Vincennes Bay. Krill (Euphausia superba) were the dominant food species comprising 100% and 94% by weight of stomach contents in the ice-edge and offshore zones, respectively. In the offshore zone, minke whales tend to feed on E. superba rather than Thysanoessa macrura, which is found more frequently than the former in net samples. Total food consumption by minke whales per day was estimated to be 1170 t (22.1 kg/km2) and 596 t (2.0 kg/km2) in the ice-edge and offshore zones, respectively. Feeding activity peaked in the early morning in the ice-edge zone, whereas it occurred irregularly throughout the day in the offshore zone. Two size modes of krill (25–28 mm in body length (1 year-old) and 41–48 mm (3–4 year-old)) dominated the diet. Although the former was numerically more abundant, the latter dominated the diet by weight, suggesting that larger krill are more important food for minke whales. Observed spatial pattern of krill populations in the study region suggests that movement of the subsurface cold water mass tended to carry krill offshore from the ice-edge.
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