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Prey dynamics affect foraging by a pelagic predator (Stenella longirostris) over a range of spatial and temporal scales

Abstract

Studies have shown that pelagic predators do not overlap with their prey at small scales. However, we hypothesized that spinner dolphin foraging would be affected by the spatio-temporal dynamics of their prey at both small and large scales. A modified echosounder was used to simultaneously measure the abundance of dolphins and their prey as a function of space and time off three Hawaiian islands. Spinner dolphin abundance closely matched the abundance patterns in the boundary community both horizontally and vertically. As hypothesized, spinner dolphins followed the diel horizontal migration of their prey, rather than feeding offshore the entire night. Spinner dolphins also followed the vertical migrations of their prey and exploited the vertical areas within the boundary layer that had the highest prey density. Cooperative foraging by pairs of dolphins within large groups was evident. The geometric and density characteristics of prey patches containing dolphins indicate that dolphins may alter the characteristics of prey patches through this cooperative foraging. The overlap of Hawaiian spinner dolphins and their prey at many temporal and spatial scales, ranging from several minutes to an entire night and 20 m to several kilometers, indicates that the availability of truly synoptic data may fundamentally alter our conclusions about pelagic predator-prey interactions.

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Correspondence to Kelly J. Benoit-Bird.

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Communicated by F. Trillmich

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Benoit-Bird, K.J., Au, W.W.L. Prey dynamics affect foraging by a pelagic predator (Stenella longirostris) over a range of spatial and temporal scales. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 53, 364–373 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-003-0585-4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-003-0585-4

Keywords

  • Predator-prey
  • Spatial scale
  • Temporal scale
  • Synoptic data
  • Mesopelagic boundary community