Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom


Movements of sperm whale in the western Mediterranean Sea: preliminary photo-identification results

Violaine  Drouot-Dulau a1c1 and Alexandre  Gannier a1
a1 Groupe de Recherche sur les Cétacés (GREC), BP 715, 06633 Antibes cedex, France

Article author query
drouot-dulau v   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
gannier a   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Sperm whale residency and movements within the Mediterranean Sea were investigated using photo-identification data collected in summer over a 15 year period (1991–2005). Surveys were conducted from a 12 m motor sailing boat. Although dedicated to cetaceans, surveys did not solely focus on sperm whale photo-identification, so time to track and photograph all individuals forming a group was not always available. From good quality photographs, 44 individuals were identified in the western Mediterranean, including the Ligurian Sea, the Gulf of Lions and waters off the Balearics. Eleven identified whales were photographically re-captures. Within-year re-sightings occurred from 1 to 29 d apart, while five identified whales were re-sighted over several summer seasons, from 1 to 7 y apart. Four whales were seen in more than one year in the northern part of the basin, indicating site fidelity to this feeding area. The combination of photo-identification and acoustic data (size estimation from inter-pulse interval measurements) enabled us to demonstrate a north–south movement of some sexually mature males (around 13 m in length), feeding in the northern regions and joining groups of females off the Balearics for around 20 d. These displacements ranged over ~500 km, with travelling time of seven days or less.

(Published Online February 26 2007)
(Received June 16 2006)
(Accepted October 25 2006)

c1 Corresponding author, e-mail: