Feeding ecology of the franciscana (<i>Pontoporia blainvillei</i>) in marine and estuarine waters of Argentina
AbstractStomach contents of 110 franciscanas (Pontoporia blainvillei), from northern Argentina were analysed in order to improve our knowledge about the feeding habits of this species and to better characterise the lactation period. The samples included calves, juveniles and adults of both sexes. Evidence of predation by franciscanas is seen at a very young age (2.5-3 months), with a transition diet composed by both milk and solid food, mainly represented by crustaceans. Weaning seems to begin by April, when franciscanas are about 6-7 months old. Franciscanas inhabiting two different habitats were analysed in this study: a brackish water estuary and an adjacent marine coastal system. The diet of Pontoporia blainvillei in northern Argentina was composed by a total of 26 prey species: 20 teleosts, 4 crustaceans and 2 cephalopods. Based on the Index of Relative Importance (IRI) the main prey species were Cynoscion guatucupa, Micropogonias furnieri, Loligo sanpaulensis and Urophycis brasiliensis. Estuarine franciscanas preyed mainly on Micropogonias furnieri (dominant species), Cynoscion guatucupa, Odonthestes argentinensis and Macrodon ancylodon, while dolphins from marine areas preyed mainly on Cynoscion guatucupa (dominant species), Loligo sanpaulensis and Urophycis brasiliensis. Our results confirm that franciscanas prey mainly on juvenile fish (<8cm) and small loliginid squids, in close agreement with previous results obtained in southern Brazil and Uruguay. Qualitative and quantitative differences observed in the diet of dolphins from each habitat emphasise the need to discriminate between samples from different habitats and environmental parameters.
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