PLoS ONE (2014)

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0097907


Information on the habitat use of the critically endangered Yangtze finless porpoise (Neophocaena asiaeorientalis asiaeorientalis) is critical for its conservation. The diel biosonar behavior of the porpoise in the port areas of the Yangtze River was examined along with simultaneous observations of fish density and boat traffic. Biosonar pulses from the porpoises were detected for 1233 min (5.77%) over a 21,380 min duration of effective observations. In total, 190 (5.63%) buzzes (an indication of prey capture attempts) were recorded among the 3372 identified click trains. Of the 168 echolocation encounters (bouts of click trains less than eight min apart), 150 (89.3%) involved single animals, indicating that solitary porpoises were frequently present and feeding in the port areas. Significant diel patterns were evident involving the biosonar behavior of the porpoises (including click trains and buzzes), fish density and boat traffic. The frequencies of the click trains and buzzes were significantly lower during the day than in the evening and at night, which suggests that porpoises in this region are primarily engaged in crepuscular and nocturnal foraging. The lack of a significant diel pattern in the echolocation encounters indicates the importance of the port in porpoise conservation. A forced feeding schedule may be associated with the lack of a significant correlation between porpoise acoustics and boat traffic. Overall, prey availability appears to be the primary factor that attracts porpoises. Additionally, porpoises tend to migrate or remain downstream in the morning and migrate or remain upstream in the evening, most likely to follow their prey. The findings of this study can be used to improve the conservation of the Yangtze finless porpoise.