Order Cetacea – Whales

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Order Cetacea – Whales
___ Right whale (Balena glacialis) Endangered
Calving grounds for this once-persecuted species have been located east of the Georgia-Florida border, and animals are in our area during the fall and winter months. They spend the summer feeding in the rich waters of New England and Nova Scotia.
___ Pygmy sperm whale (Kogia breviceps) Infrequent
This species is the second most common marine mammal to strand on Cumberland Island. Their diet appears to be primarily squid, with some small fish and crustaceans. Length is from 3 to over 3.5 meters (10-12 ft.).
___ Dwarf sperm whale (Kogia sima) Infrequent
The adult dwarf sperm whale is a smaller version of the pygmy sperm whale, with a total length of between 2 and 3 meters (7-9 ft.). There were eight strandings on Cumberland Island between 1974 and 1999.
___ Dense beaked whale (Mesoplodon densirotris) Not assessed
Little is known of the life history of the beaked whales. This pelagic species is distributed worldwide in tropical waters. Only one specimen is recorded from the island.
___ Gervais’ beaked whale (Mesoplodon europaeus) Not assessed
Two of these beaked whales stranded on Cumberland Island between 197 and 1999. These beaked whales are pelagic and found only in the Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico, and are the species of Mesoplodon that most commonly strands.
___ Goose-beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris) Not assessed
Only a partial skull has been recovered from Cumberland Island along with one specimen from Little Cumberland Island. Distribution is worldwide and goosebeaked whales are year-round residents in the Gulf of Mexico.
___ Pygmy killer whale (Feresa attenuata) Not assessed
At least three specimens (2 from CI and 1 from LCI) document the occurences of these gragarious and generally aggressive small whales. Adults are from 2.5 to 3 meters long (-9.5 ft.), but despite their size they inhabit the deep water east of the continental shelf.
___ Short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus) Not assessed
Adults are from 5 to 6 meters long and associate in herds. Occasionally many (or all) animals in a herd will beach themselves at the same time. There was one such mass stranding in 1977 on Cumberland Island that involved 15 animals.
___ Bottle-nosed dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) Locally common
This species is the most common marine mammal to strand on Cumberland Island (67 in the last decade). There appear to be two forms of this species: a larger, offshore form, and a smaller inshore one. Most of our strandings are of the smaller variety. Bottle-nosed dolphins are commonly seen along the ocean beach as welllas in tidal creeks and rivers on the west side.
___ Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis) Not assessed
Herds of spotted dolphins number from ten to several hundred, and they are usually found more than five miles offshore. Very few have stranded on Cumberland Island.
___ Spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris) Not assessed
Large herds of these small (1.8-2.2 m) dolphins occur in deep oceanic waters off the continental shelf. They frequently spin when jumping abopve the surface. Five individuals stranded on Cumberland Island in the last decade.
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