Original Articles

The distribution of small odontocete cetaceans off the coasts of South Africa and Namibia


A total of 2 077 records of approximately 49 000 small cetaceans, including dedicated and incidental sightings and specimens, was analysed to define distribution patterns of the 28 species found within southern African waters. Distribution analyses reveal distinct component patterns, including cosmopolitan (found in all waters) and pelagic cosmopolitan (found in all pelagic waters) components, tropical, subtropical and warm temperate components of the Agulhas Current system, an Agulhas Bank component, a South and East Coast inshore component, and West Coast neritic and pelagic components. While the offshore distribution appears to be determined by water depth, possibly through distribution of the principal prey, longshore distribution appears to be determined by water temperature. The high diversity of small cetacean species found within the relatively small study region results from the wide range of zoogeographic components present. These components arise from the wide range of water temperature resulting from the warm Agulhas Current and the upwelling Benguela system.

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