Spatiotemporal variation in harbor porpoise distribution and foraging across a landscape of fear

Laura Dawn Williamson* (Corresponding Author), Beth Scott, Megan R. Laxton, Fabian E. Bachl, Janine Illian, Brookes Kate L., Paul Thompson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


Understanding spatiotemporally varying animal distributions can inform ecological understanding of species' behavior (e.g., foraging and predator/prey interactions) and support development of management and conservation measures. Data from an array of echolocation-click detectors (C-PODs) were analyzed using Bayesian spatiotemporal modeling to investigate spatial and temporal variation in occurrence and foraging activity of harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) and how this variation was influenced by daylight and presence of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). The probability of occurrence of porpoises was highest on an offshore sandbank, where the proportion of detections with foraging clicks was relatively low. The porpoises' overall distribution shifted throughout the summer and autumn, likely influenced by seasonal prey availability. Probability of porpoise occurrence was lowest in areas close to the coast, where dolphin detections were highest and declined prior to dolphin detection, leading potentially to avoidance of spatiotemporal overlap between porpoises and dolphins. Increased understanding of porpoises' seasonal distribution, key foraging areas, and their relationship with competitors can shed light on management options and potential interactions with offshore industries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-57
Number of pages16
JournalMarine Mammal Science
Issue number1
Early online date15 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding information: Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland; Marine Scotland Science; University of Aberdeen


  • bottlenose dolphin
  • competition
  • distribution
  • landscape of fear
  • C-POD
  • foraging
  • harbor porpoise
  • INLA


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