Marine Biodiversity Records

Research Article

Cetacean diversity and distribution off Tenerife (Canary Islands)

Manuel Carrilloa1 c1, Claudia Pérez-Vallazzaa2 and Rosana Álvarez-Vázqueza2

a1 Tenerife Conservación, C/Maya No. 8, La Laguna, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain

a2 Elittoral S.L.N.E. (Coastal and Oceanographic Engineering Studies), Edificio Polivalente II, Parque científico tecnológico, Planta baja, oficina 19, Campus de Tafira, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain


Dedicated surveys were conducted along the south-west and north-east coasts of Tenerife (Canary Islands), between 1997 and 2006, to gather baseline information on cetacean diversity, abundance, spatial and temporal distribution. A total of 1016 sightings of sixteen cetacean species was recorded during the study period. Sightings were recorded throughout the year although the period in which the highest number of species were sighted was in spring and summer (from May through to August). The most frequently sighted species were bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus), which together comprised 82% of the total sightings. These were followed by common dolphin (Delphinus delphis), Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis) and dense beaked whale (Mesoplodon densirostris) which represented 9% of the total sightings. Most sightings were recorded along the south-west coast of Tenerife, where the distribution of the different species seemed to be influenced by water depth. Calves were present during sightings of almost every recorded species, especially in toothed whales. Two mother–calf pairs of fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus) were also observed. This suggests that the surveyed area, or at least the south-west sub-area, might play an important role as a calving ground for the four most frequently sighted species. The information acquired in this study indicates that the waters around Tenerife constitute an important habitat for cetaceans.

(Received July 01 2009)

(Accepted May 01 2010)


c1 Correspondence should be addressed to: Manuel Carrillo, Tenerife Conservación, C/Maya nº8, La Laguna, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain email: