Can habitat modelling for the octopus Eledone cirrhosa help identify key areas for Risso's dolphin in Scottish waters?

C. D. MacLeod*, M. B. Santos, F. Burns, A. Brownlow, G. J. Pierce

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


Marine protected areas (MPAs) are becoming increasingly important tools in the conservation of cetaceans. This has led to an interest in the use of species distribution models to predict where cetacean species are likely to occur based on the distribution of environmental variables. However, relationships between cetacean distribution and environmental variables are generally assumed to reflect the environmental preferences of their prey. Thus, understanding the distribution of prey may increase our ability to identify important areas for cetaceans. Here, we describe the diet of Risso's dolphin (Grampus griseus) by analysing stomach contents of individuals stranded in Scotland over the last twenty years. Next, we use habitat modelling to test whether Rissos's dolphin distribution in Scottish waters, as inferred from sightings, is related to the distribution of its main prey, the octopus Eledone cirrhosa. While good models of the relationship between the distribution of E. cirrhosa and environmental variables were obtained, there was no evidence of a relationship between modelled octopus distribution and the occurrence of Risso's dolphins. These results suggest that identifying key areas for its main prey species is unlikely to help identify potential MPAs for Risso's dolphin, at least at the spatial resolution used in this study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-136
Number of pages12
Issue number1
Early online date7 Jun 2013
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014

Bibliographical note

Acknowledgments This study was funded by Scottish Natural
Heritage (SNH). Stomach contents of Risso’s dolphin were
provided by Scottish Agricultural College under the auspices of
the UK cetacean stranding monitoring programme. Research
trawl survey data were provided by Marine Scotland Science.
Data on Risso’s dolphin occurrence around the UK and Ireland
were provided the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG),
Marinelife and the JNCC Seabirds At Sea Team. We thank
Sarah Dolman for her assistance in setting up this study.


  • Eledone cirrhosa
  • marine protected area
  • habitat modelling
  • Risso's dolphin
  • diet
  • porpoises phocoena-phocoena
  • tursiops-truncatus
  • stomach contents
  • grampus-griseus
  • variability
  • cephalopoda
  • mollusca


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