Marine Mammal Sci (2001)

DOI: 10.1111/j.1748-7692.2001.tb01307.x


(…) Harbor porpoises are assumed to have colonized the Black Sea from the Atlantic Ocean (Gaskin 1982, Rosel 1997). This hypothesized relationship is based on both geographical proximity and genetic evidence (Rosel et al. 1995), and it implies that a harbor porpoise population once existed in the Mediterranean Sea, when water temperature was considerably cooler than today (Gaskin 1982). From the northeastern part of the Mediterranean (ie., the northern Aegean Sea), they could have entered the Black Sea after it was transformed from a lake to a sea, some 7,000 yr ago (Ryan et al. 1997, Aksu et al. 1999). Though some historical records suggest that the species was present in the Mediterranean until the end of the 19th century, today all reliable evidence indicates that harbor porpoises are absent from the Mediterranean Sea (Viale 1985, Evans 1987, Donovan and Bjorge 1995, Notarbartolo di Sciara and Demma 1997, Rice 1998), with the possible exception of the northern Aegean Sea (this work). The purpose of this note is to clarify the historical distribution of P. phocoena in the Mediterranean Sea by: (1) reviewing the literature from the end of the 19th century to the present, (2) critically examining unpublished data, and (3) providing new information from three recent strandings in the northern Aegean Sea (Greece, northeastern Mediterranean). (…)