[MARMAM] Harbour porpoises move southern in the Aegean Sea

Alexandros Frantzis afrantzis at otenet.gr
Fri Mar 14 17:53:26 PDT 2008

Dear all,

We apologize for cross-postings to the ECS and Marmam lists.

Some decades ago the harbour porpoise was considered as extinct species
in the Mediterranean Sea. Since 1997 ten strandings (two live) have been
recorded in a limited area of the North Aegean Sea and particularly in
its north-eastern part (Thracian Sea). Six skin samples that were
analysed so far for mtDNA showed the relatedness of the Aegean porpoises
with the Black Sea population, but do not exclude and actually indicate
an isolation from it. In addition, the recorded strandings occurred all
year round and included all age classes also indicating that the Aegean
harbour porpoises are likely to belong to a very small resident
population. The analysis of 6 more samples is still pending.

During the last 1.5 year three more specimens were found stranded (one
along the Turkish coasts of the Aegean Sea). Surprisingly, one after the
other these last strandings were significantly expanding the known range
of the subspecies (P. phocoena relicta) further south, at both the west
and east coasts of the Aegean Sea. One week ago on Sunday 9 March 2008
the last stranding was recorded in the suburbs of Athens (Vouliagmeni),
some 250 nautical miles southern than the northern Aegean and Thracian
Seas. There is no easy explanation of this sudden appearance of harbour
porpoises in southern and hotter seas. A relative note including
necropsy results and an update on the Aegean harbour porpoises is being

The harbour porpoise is rare in the Aegean Sea and both the Aegean and
Black Sea sub-populations have been proposed to be listed as
"Endangered" by a joint ACCOBAMS-IUCN workshop in 2006.

Relative downloadable references:
The first five of the following papers can be downloaded through the

Frantzis A., Gordon J., Hassidis G., Komnenou A., 2001. The enigma of
harbor porpoise presence in the Mediterranean Sea. Marine Mammal Science
17 (4): 937-944.

Rosel P.E., Frantzis A., Lockyer C., Komnenou A., 2003. The Source of
Aegean Sea harbour porpoises. Marine Ecology Progress Series 247:

Frantzis A., Alexiadou P., Paximadis G., Politi E., Gannier A.,
Corsini-Foka M., 2003. Current knowledge of the cetacean fauna of the
Greek Seas. The Journal of Cetacean Research Management. 5(3): 219-232.

Birkun A.Jr. and Frantzis A. 2006. Harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena
relicta (Black Sea subspecies). Pp 39-47 in Reeves R., Notarbartolo di
Sciara G. (compilers and editors). The status and distribution of
cetaceans in the Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea. IUCN Centre for
Mediterranean Cooperation, Malaga, Spain. 137 pp.

Viaud-Martinnez K.A., Martinnez Vergara M., Gol'din P.E., Ridoux V.,
Ozturk A.A., Ozturk B., Rosel P.E., Frantzis A., Komnenou A., Bohonak
A.J., 2007. Morphological and genetic differentiation of the Black Sea
harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 338: 281-294.

H. Guclusoy H., 2007. The first confirmed report of the harbour porpoise
(Phocoena phoceana) in the Turkish Aegean Sea. JMBA2 - Biodiversity
Records. 2 pp.

Best wishes,

Dr. Alexandros Frantzis
Scientific director
Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute
Terpsichoris 21
16671 Vouliagmeni,
Tel.: +30-210-8960108
e-mail: afrantzis at otenet.gr
website: http://www.pelagosinstitute.gr

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