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Biol Lett. 2007 Apr 22;3(2):185-8.

Linking sandeel consumption and the likelihood of starvation in harbour porpoises in the Scottish North Sea: could climate change mean more starving porpoises?

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1
School of Biological Sciences (Zoology), University of Aberdeen, Tillydrone Avenue, Aberdeen AB24 2TZ, UK. c.d.macleod@abdn.ac.uk

Abstract

Sandeels are known to be negatively affected by climate change in a number of ways. This study investigated whether these changes are affecting the harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena), a species which consumes sandeels. Porpoise diet was examined in spring (March-May), a critical time of year for survival when sandeels are important prey, from 1993 to 2001 to provide baseline information on the proportion of sandeels consumed. When data from spring 2002 and 2003 were compared to these baseline data, the diet was found to be substantially different, with a significant and substantially smaller proportion of sandeels being consumed in March and May. There were also differences in the number of porpoises starving between the two time periods (33% in spring 2002 and 2003 died of starvation, but only 5% in the baseline period). This suggests that a lower proportion of sandeels in the diet of porpoises in spring increases the likelihood of starvation. Therefore, we suggest that the negative effects of climate change on sandeel availability may have serious negative effects on harbour porpoise populations in the North Sea by increasing the likelihood of starvation in spring.

PMID:
17251125
PMCID:
PMC2375924
DOI:
10.1098/rsbl.2006.0588
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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