[MARMAM] Overview of sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus mortality events in the Adriatic Sea, 1555­2009

Giovanni Bearzi giovanni.bearzi at gmail.com
Tue Feb 1 07:53:00 PST 2011

The following article has become available online:

Overview of sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus mortality events in the
Adriatic Sea, 1555-2009

Giovanni BEARZI, Nino PIERANTONIO, Marco AFFRONTE, Draško HOLCER, Nicola

Mammal Review (2011)
doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2907.2010.00171.x


1. In the Mediterranean Sea, the sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus is one
of eight regular cetacean species. Poor knowledge of its ecology and status,
together with suspected decline in numbers, make studies of historical and
present occurrence especially relevant. Long-term time series of stranding
events are the most reliable data to provide a scientific framework for
testing hypotheses that seek to explain the mechanisms responsible for
cetacean strandings.

2. We present a comprehensive overview of cases of sperm whale mortality and
human response to such events encompassing five centuries (1555-2009) within
a portion of the Mediterranean Sea that offers a wealth of historical
information - the Adriatic Sea.

3. A total of 36 mortality events were validated, involving 68 animals. Two
findings of skeletal materials are also reported. The geographic
distribution of strandings within the basin clearly was uneven: 44% of
records (n = 16) were clustered along a 280km portion of the western
Adriatic coast. A relatively high number of mortality events occurred along
gently sloping sandy beaches away from suitable sperm whale habitat.

4. Until the first half of the 20th century, live-stranded animals were
routinely killed: all but one cases with known human response elicited
killing attempts. Starting from the 1980s, killing was replaced by efforts
to rescue the animals.

5. Mass strandings of sperm whales have occurred since historical times in
the Adriatic Sea. Mortality events involving multiple individuals accounted
for at least 17% of the total sample (6 of 36 mortality events). At least
29% of live strandings (6 of 21) involved more than one individual.

6. This study contributes a long-term dataset based on careful validation of
historical information, suitable for hypothesis testing aimed at
investigating spatial and temporal correlates of sperm whale strandings -
particularly live strandings - as a clue to their causes.


A pdf copy can be obtained from the journal's web site (subscribers only):


or from me:

giovanni.bearzi at gmail.com <mailto:giovanni.bearzi at gmail.com>

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Giovanni Bearzi

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