• White-beaked dolphin (Lagenorhynchus albirostris) off Aberdeen, Scotland, UK

White-beaked dolphins

White-beaked dolphins have greatly interested Caroline Weir since she first encountered the species in The Minches of Scotland during 1998. The species is endemic to the North Atlantic Ocean, where it inhabits high-latitude temperate and cold-water regions as far north as the pack-ice and as far south as France and Cape Cod. Their scientific name, Lagenorhynchus albirostris, refers to the white (albi-) beak (rostrum) which is one of their most characteristic features (though the beaks of some individuals are grey).

Caroline has since carried out distribution surveys and photo-identification work on white-beaked dolphins along the North Sea coast of Aberdeen, in the Minch on the west coast of Scotland and in the waters of Iceland. In the North Sea, data on white-beaked dolphins have been collected as part of ongoing work on Aberdeen’s cetacean community (see Aberdeen cetaceans). In the Minch, Caroline coordinated a dedicated survey during 2007 aimed at determining the current distribution and status of white-beaked dolphins in the region and establishing the feasibility of this region as a long-term study site.

The White-Beaked Dolphin Project (WBDP) is an ongoing project and aims to improve knowledge of the status and ecology of white-beaked dolphins within Scottish waters to aid their future conservation and management. Photo-identification images taken on the east and west coasts of Scotland are maintained in a catalogue for the species, and the data on distribution and ecology have been published in a number of scientific papers, reports and conference proceedings. Please contact Caroline for more information on this work.

Selected publications from white-beaked dolphin research:

Weir, C.R., MacLeod, C.D. and Calderan, S. V. (2009). Fine-scale habitat use by white-beaked and common dolphins in the Minch (Scotland, UK): evidence for interspecific competition or coexistence? Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 89(5): 951–960.

MacLeod, C.D., Weir, C.R., Santos, M.B. and Dunn, T.E. (2008). Temperature-based summer habitat partitioning between white-beaked and common dolphins around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 88: 1193–1198.

Weir, C.R., Stockin, K.A. and Pierce, G.J. (2007). Spatial and temporal trends in the distribution of harbour porpoises, white-beaked dolphins and minke whales off Aberdeenshire (UK), north-western North Sea. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 87: 327–338.

Weir, C.R., Calderan, S., Unwin, M., Pitman, R.L., Booth, C., Photopoulos, T. and Robinson, K.P. (2008). White-beaked dolphin (Lagenorhynchus albirostris) occurrence in the Minch (Scotland, UK) during August 2007. Presentation at the European Cetacean Society Conference, The Netherlands, 10–12 March 2008.

Weir, C.R. (2008). Occurrence of the white-beaked dolphin (Lagenorhynchus albirostris) and other cetacean species in the Minch, August 2007. Scottish Natural Heritage Commissioned Report No. 305 (ROAME No. F05AC701).

Weir, C.R. and Stockin, K.A. (2002). Seasonal occurrence of the white-beaked dolphin (Lagenorhynchus albirostris) in coastal Aberdeenshire waters, North-east Scotland. Proceedings of the 16th Annual Conference of the European Cetacean Society, Liege, Belgium, 7–11 April 2002.

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