Too Close for Comfort? Isotopic Niche Segregation in New Zealand’s Odontocetes

Katharina J. Peters, Sarah J. Bury, Bethany Hinton, Emma L. Betty, Déborah Casano-Bally, Guido J. Parra, Karen A. Stockin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


Species occurring in sympatry and relying on similar and limited resources may partition resource use to avoid overlap and interspecific competition. Aotearoa, New Zealand hosts an extraordinarily rich marine megafauna, including 50% of the world’s cetacean species. In this study, we used carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes as ecological tracers to investigate isotopic niche overlap between 21 odontocete (toothed whale) species inhabiting neritic, mesopelagic, and bathypelagic waters. Results showed a clear niche separation for the bathypelagic Gray’s beaked whales (Mesoplodon grayi) and sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus), but high isotopic niche overlap and potential interspecific competition for neritic and mesopelagic species. For these species, competition could be reduced via temporal or finer-scale spatial segregation or differences in foraging behaviour. This study represents the first insights into the coexistence of odontocetes in a biodiverse hotspot. The data presented here provide a critical baseline to a system already ongoing ecosystem change via ocean warming and subsequent effects on prey abundance and distributions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1179
Number of pages25
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


  • carbon
  • diet
  • dolphins
  • feeding ecology
  • nitrogen
  • SGD14
  • stable isotopes
  • trophic relationships


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