Cetacean sightings around the Republic of the Maldives, April 1998

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Lisa T. Ballance
R. Charles Anderson
Robert L. Pitman
Kathleen Stafford
Abdullah Shaan
Zaha Waheed
Robert L. Brownell Jr.


In April 1998, as part of a project to collect biopsy samples of putative pygmy blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus brevicauda) in the waters around the Republic of the Maldives, Indian Ocean, incidental sightings of cetaceans encountered were recorded. Using modified line-transect methods and handheld binoculars, a total of 267 sightings of 16 species of whales and dolphins were recorded during 20 at-sea days in the northeastern part of the atoll. Significant results include the following: (1) cetaceans were abundant and species diversity was high, including nearly every pantropical species of pelagic cetacean; (2) the spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris) was by far the most common species encountered (56 sightings) and also had the largest mean school size ( = 50.3 individuals); (3) blue whales were rare; only four individuals were sighted; (4) a large concentration of Bryde’s whales (28 sightings in two days) was apparently feeding in nearshore waters; (5) this paper reports the first records for the Maldives of Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris), Blainville’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon densirostris) and the dwarf sperm whale (Kogia sima): the latter was particularly common (17 sightings); (6) the spotted dolphin (Stenella attenuata) was rare and almost always associated with yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares), spinner dolphin, or seabirds, as has been reported in the eastern Pacific and western Indian oceans.

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