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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Marine mammal strandings in the New Caledonia region, Southwest Pacific

Philippe Borsa
Comptes Rendus Biologies 2006, 329 (4): 277-88
16644500
Four hundred twenty three marine mammals, in 72 stranding events, were recorded between 1877 and 2005 in New Caledonia, the Loyalty Islands, and Vanuatu in the southwest Pacific. Sixteen species were represented in this count, including: minke whale, Balaenoptera acutorostrata (1 single stranding), sei whale, B. borealis (1 single stranding), blue whale, B. musculus (1 single stranding), humpback whale, Megaptera novaeangliae (2 single strandings), giant sperm whale, Physeter macrocephalus (18 single strandings, 2 pair strandings), pygmy sperm whale, Kogia breviceps (5 single strandings), dwarf sperm whale, K. sima (2 single strandings, 1 triple stranding), Blainville's beaked whale, Mesoplodon densirostris (2 single strandings), short-finned pilot whale, Globicephala macrorhynchus (4 strandings, 56 individuals), melon-headed whale, Peponocephala electra (1 single stranding and 2 mass strandings totalling 231 individuals), common dolphin, Delphinus delphis (1 single stranding), spinner dolphin, Stenella longirostris (1 pair stranding and 2 mass strandings of groups of approximately 30 individuals each), Indian Ocean bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops aduncus (2 single strandings), dugong, Dugong dugon (14 single strandings), and New Zealand fur seal, Arctocephalus forsteri (3 single strandings). A stranded rorqual identified as an Antarctic minke whale (B. bonaerensis), with coloration patterns that did not match known descriptions, was also reported. Sei whale was recorded for the first time in the tropical Southwest Pacific region and Antarctic minke whale, melon-headed whale, and Indian Ocean bottlenose dolphin were recorded for the first time in New Caledonia. Strandings of sperm whales were most frequent in the spring, but also occurred in autumn months, suggesting a seasonal pattern of occurrence possibly related to seasonal migration. One stranded humpback whale bore the scars of a killer whale's attack and one dugong was injured by a shark. Scars left by propellers were noted on several stranded animals including one Antarctic minke whale, one pygmy sperm whale, one dwarf sperm whale, and four dugongs. Collisions with vessels were suspected to be a frequent cause of death for dugong.

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