Diving and night-time behavior of long-finned pilot whales in the Ligurian Sea

R W Baird, J F Borsani, M B Hanson, P L Tyack

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75 Citations (Scopus)


Pilot whales Globicephala spp. have long been thought to be deep divers, yet little information is available on dive depths. During August 1999 we obtained detailed dive data from suction-cup-attached time-depth recorder/VHF radio tags deployed on 5 long-finned pilot whales G. melas. Pilot whales were tagged for short periods (average 5 h ind.(-1)) in deep (>2000 m) waters of the Ligurian Sea, off the NW coast of Italy. During the day all 5 whales spent their time in the top 16 m of the water column, and visible surface activities consisted primarily of rest and social behaviors. Tags remained attached after dark on 2 whales and shortly after sunset both whales made several deep dives (max. 360 and 648 m). Velocity on these deep dives was greater than during shallow dives either during the day or at night, suggesting that these deep dives function primarily for foraging. Our results confirm the supposition that long-finned pilot whales can dive deep, particularly within 2 h after sunset, which is the time that vertically migrating prey become more readily available as they move closer to the surface.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-305
Number of pages5
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jul 2002


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