Abstract: During the austral summer/autumn of 2001, habitat selection of Peale's dolphins (Lagenorhynchus australis) was assessed through a five-month land-based survey in two sectors on the central west coast of the Strait of Magellan, Punta Arenas, Chile. The main objective of this study was to evaluate habitat selection of Peale's dolphins in relation to kelp beds and the behavioural patterns determining dolphins habitat use. In 191 h of observation effort, habitat use of Peale's dolphins displayed a significant concentration in only a small part of the study area, which was strongly associated with kelp beds. Feeding was the most frequent behaviour observed, followed by traveling. The former behavioural state was observed principally inside and on the border of kelp beds, while traveling was observed mainly outside the beds. Peale's dolphins' preference for kelp beds, which seemed to be their primary feeding ground, was evident throughout this study. Kelp forests appear to be a fundamental habitat for Peale's dolphins in coastal ecosystems, and their protection might be crucial for the conservation of Peale's dolphin populations.

Key Words: PEALE'S DOLPHIN; LAGENORHYNCHUS AUSTRALIS; HABITAT SELECTION; BEHAVIOURAL PATTERNS; KELP BEDS; MACROCYSTIS PYRIFERA; SOUTHERN CHILE

Document Type: Research article

DOI: 10.1578/AM.31.2.2005.176

Page Numbers: 176 - 183

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