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Social structure and mating system of sperm whales off northern Chile

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Abstract:

We studied the social structure and mating system of sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus L., 1758) off northern Chile over 10 months in 2000, photographically identifying 898 individuals. The mean size of encountered groups of females with immatures was about 23 animals, while the estimated mean size of units (sets of females and immatures with permanent relationships) was 11 animals. About 4% of the population consisted of large mature males, although this varied seasonally. Groups of females and immatures, as well as large males, spent only a matter of days within the study area at a time. There was no evidence for preferred ranges for the males, for males consistently accompanying particular groups, or for males forming coalitions. Males roved between the groups of females and immatures. Both mature males and females or immatures appeared to take the initiative in maintaining or breaking close associations. These results are similar to those from studies off the Galápagos Islands, even though the habitat, nonsocial behaviour, and relative abundance of mature males were quite different in the two areas.

Nous avons étudié la structure sociale et le système d'accouplement chez des cachalots (Physeter macrocephalus L., 1758) au large du nord du Chili sur un période de 10 mois en 2000 et nous avons identifié 898 individus à l'aide de photographies. La taille moyenne des groupes de femelles et de jeunes observés est d'environ 23 animaux, alors que la taille estimée des unités (ensembles de femelles et de jeunes qui ont des liens permanents) est de 11 animaux. Les grands mâles à maturité représentent environ 4 % de la population, mais ce nombre varie avec les saisons. Les groupes de femelles et d'immatures, tout comme les grands mâles, ne passent que quelques jours dans la zone d'étude à chacune de leurs visites. Il n'y a pas d'indication que les mâles aient des aires de répartition préférées, qu'il accompagnent systématiquement certains groupes, ni qu'ils forment des coalitions. Les mâles vont d'un groupe à l'autre de femelles et d'immatures. Le maintien et le bris des associations étroites peuvent se faire à l'initiative à la fois des mâles et des femelles adultes ou alors des immatures. Ces résultats sont semblables à d'autres obtenus au large des îles Galápagos, bien que l'habitat, les comportements non-sociaux et l'abondance relative des mâles matures soient très différents dans les deux régions.[Traduit par la Rédaction]

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2004

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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