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The Diet Composition of Beaked Whales and Melon-Headed Whales from the North Pacific

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Technical Report

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Hawaii Pacific University Kaneohe United States

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Knowledge of the diet of a species is crucial for understanding its behavior and ecology, and also has relevance to assessing the impact of potential changes in behavior or spatial use that may be associated with anthropogenic activities. Assessing diet for many species of cetaceans is difficult, given that most foraging occurs far below the surface and that stomach contents of stranded animals are rarely available. Very little information on food habits of most species of beaked whales or of melon-headed whales Peponocephala electra is available from any region of the world. This project proposes to describe the diet composition of several species of beaked whales and melon-headed whales in the North Pacific by conducting stomach content analysis of available specimens collected from stranded animals. Prey remains are now available from 26 beaked whales that represent six species. Additionally, stomach contents have been obtained from six stranded melon-headed whales in Hawaii. The identification of each prey item to the species level and size and mass estimates of prey will allow for a detailed description and comparison of diet composition as well as provide insight into the foraging behavior and ecology of these whales in the North Pacific.

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