Stranding records of sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) on the Turkish coast in 2019-2020 with a note on the opportunistic sampling of stomach content

Stranding records of sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) on the Turkish coast in 2019-2020 with a note on the opportunistic sampling of stomach content

Arda M. Tonay, Ayaka A. Öztürk, Alp Salman, Ayhan Dede, Işıl Aytemiz Danyer, Erdem Danyer, Bayram Öztürk

ORCID IDs: A.M.T. 0000-0003-2718-9328; A.A.Ö. 0000-0003-2281-7372; A.S. 0000-0002-2853-6507; A.D. 0000-0002-7712-615X;
I.A.D. 0000-0003-4658-1819; E.D. 0000-0002-7922-7384; B.Ö. 0000-0001-7844-2448

Faculty of Aquatic Sciences, Istanbul University, Ordu Cad. No: 8, 34470, Fatih, Istanbul, TURKEY
Turkish Marine Research Foundation (TUDAV), P.O. Box: 10, Beykoz, Istanbul, TURKEY
Faculty of Fisheries, Ege University, Erzene Mah., 35100 Bornova, İzmir, TURKEY
Veterinary Control Central Research Institute, 06020, Etlik, Ankara, TURKEY


Three sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) strandings are reported from the Turkish Mediterranean coast between 2019 and 2020. The first individual was a juvenile found in July 2019 near Fethiye, in the west. The second individual, a neonate, stranded in Adana in the east, on 10 August 2020. The third case, a sub-adult/adult, stranded on the beach of Antalya, in the west on 14 August 2020. It was buried on the beach and excavated about two months later. During the excavation, a hard plastic food container was found, which contained cephalopod beaks and other plastics providing an opportunity for partial stomach content analysis. A total of 60 lower beaks were identified belonging to eight species. Umbrella squid Histioteuthis bonnellii was dominant, representing 30% of beaks encountered. Dry total weight of four plastics (hard plastic container, nylon bag, 1.5L PET bottle and packaging item) was 197.2 g. This opportunistic sampling allowed us to collect information on the stomach contents of this creature, which is rarely stranded on the Turkish and eastern Mediterranean coasts. Dietary studies on stranded marine animals are of great importance in monitoring environmental plastic levels and impacts on wildlife in this region. In the last 50 years, six sperm whales stranded on the Turkish coasts, five of them in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, which implies that this area is probably close to sperm whale habitats. Improvement of the stranding network as well as surveys for the distribution and abundance of this species to elaborate and implement effective conservation measures are recommended.

Keywords: Sperm whale, cetacean stranding, stomach content, plastics, eastern Mediterranean Sea, Levantine Sea

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