Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom


Insights into the diet of beaked whales from the atypical mass stranding in the Canary Islands in September 2002

M.B.  Santos a1a2c1, V.  Martin a3, M.  Arbelo a4, A.  Fernández a4 and G.J.  Pierce a1
a1 School of Biological Sciences (Zoology), University of Aberdeen, Tillydrone Avenue, Aberdeen, AB24 2TZ, UK
a2 Instituto Español de Oceanografía, Centro Costero de Vigo, Cabo Estay, Canido, 36200 Vigo, Spain
a3 Sociedad para el Estudio de los Cetáceos en el Archipiélago Canario (SECAC)/Museo de Cetáceos de Canarias, Edif. Antiguo Varadero 1era planta, local 8B, Urb. Puerto Calero 35571, Yaiza, Lanzarote, Spain
a4 Institute for Animal Health (IUSA), Veterinary School, University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Gran Canaria, Spain

Article author query
santos mb   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
martin v   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
arbelo m   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
fernández a   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
pierce gj   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Stomach contents were analysed from three species of beaked whales which mass-stranded shortly after a naval exercise conducted in the Canary Islands in September 2002. Animals from such mass strandings often contain freshly ingested food in their stomachs and can provide a more reliable guide to feeding habits than other strandings. Food remains recovered from seven Cuvier's beaked whales (Ziphius cavirostris) consisted mainly of oceanic cephalopods, the most numerous being Taonius pavo, Histioteuthis sp., Mastigoteuthis schmidti and Octopoteuthis sicula. Many of the cephalopod species found in the diet appear to undertake daily vertical migrations, being found in shallower waters during the night and moving to deeper waters during the day. Single specimens of Blainville's beaked whale (Mesoplodon densirostris) and Gervais' beaked whale (Mesoplodon europaeus) had eaten both fish and cephalopod prey. The most numerous prey remains belonged to gadid fish and viperfish (Chauliodus sp.) respectively. These results are consistent with the limited published data on diet in these species, with Mesoplodon species having a relatively higher proportion of fish in the diet whereas Ziphius specialises on cephalopods.

(Published Online February 26 2007)
(Received May 18 2006)
(Accepted September 18 2006)

c1 Corresponding author, e-mail: