Correlation between the seasonal distribution of harbour porpoises and their prey in the Sound, Baltic Sea

Signe Sveegaard, Heidi Andreasen, Kim N. Mouritsen, Jens Peder Jeppesen, Jonas Teilmann, Carl C. Kinze

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Low densities of harbour porpoises in winter (November–March) and high densities in summer (April–October) were found in the Sound, connecting the Baltic Sea and Kattegat. Due to their high energy requirements, it is hypothesized that the density of harbour porpoises is related to local prey abundance. This was tested by examining the stomach content of 53 harbour porpoises collected
between 1987 and 2010 in the Sound (high season, 34 porpoises; low season, 19 porpoises). A total of 1,442 individual Wsh specimens from thirteen species were identiWed. Twelve of these were present in the high–porpoise density
season and seven in the low-density season. The distribution of occurrence and the distribution of number of Wsh species were diVerent between seasons, indicating a shift in prey intake between seasons. Furthermore, during the highdensity season, the mean and total prey weight per stomach
as well as the prey species diversity was higher. However, no diVerence was found in the number of prey species between the two seasons, indicating a higher quality of prey in the high-density season. Atlantic cod was found to be the
main prey species in terms of weight in the high-density season while Atlantic herring and Atlantic cod were equally important during the low-density season. Prey availability and predictability are suggested as the main drivers for harbour
porpoise distribution, and this could be caused by the formation of frontal zones in spring in the northern part of the Sound, leading to prey concentrations in predictable areas
Original languageEnglish
JournalMarine Biology
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)1029-1037
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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