Habitat use of hourglass dolphins near the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica
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The hourglass dolphin Lagenorhynchus cruciger is the only regularly occurring small delphinid found south of the Antarctic Polar Front, yet little is known about its ecology and habitat use. This study uses 8 years (14 cruises) of standardized shipboard surveys during January–March (2003–2011) in southern Drake Passage near the South Shetland Islands to summarize the spatial distribution of hourglass dolphin sightings and quantify habitat use. Sighting data are linked to bathymetry (depth, slope) and distance to the average location of oceanographic features. A generalized linear model is used to examine the relationships between sightings and habitat features. Hourglass dolphins were sighted on 50% of surveys (n = 29); sightings were concentrated in February. Group size tended to be 2–6 individuals; there were only 2 sightings of larger groups, of 15 and 25 individuals. Sightings were distributed entirely within the deep pelagic waters north of the South Shetland Islands in southern Drake Passage and were closely associated with the southern boundary of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. Information on occurrence and distribution reported in this study may be useful for refining habitat associations for hourglass dolphins at regional scales in the Southern Ocean.
KeywordsAntarctic Circumpolar Current Habitat use Hourglass dolphin Lagenorhynchus cruciger South Shetland Islands
Funding support was provided by contracts to J. A. Santora from the NOAA US Antarctic Marine Living Resources program and to Richard R. Veit from an NSF-OPP grant (OPP-9983751). A special thanks to Michael P. Force and Kimberly S. Dietrich (photo credit) for assisting in collecting observations and to Valerie J. Loeb for providing valuable discussion.
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