Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers (2003)

DOI: 10.1016/s0967-0637(03)00033-5


We investigated the stomach contents of Dall’s porpoises collected in pelagic waters spanning most of their range in the North Pacific and the Bering Sea. Analysis revealed the porpoises fed mainly on myctophid fishes in the subarctic North Pacific and on gonatid squids as well as myctophid fishes in the Bering Sea. Most of the prey items were mesopelagic micronekton, primarily fishes and squids that migrate vertically to shallower waters at night. Stomach content was greater during twilight hours, suggesting the porpoises foraged actively on myctophids at night in shallower waters. Stomach contents were strongly characterized by local mesopelagic prey fauna, and prey species selectivity was not apparent. The annual consumption by Dall’s porpoises was estimated to be 2.0–2.8 million tons, or 4.7–6.5% of the biomass of mesopelagic fishes in the subarctic North Pacific, and may account for approximately 24–33% of the overall mortality of mesopelagic micronekton, especially myctophids. Myctophids are also common, but less important, prey of other subarctic predators. Dall’s porpoises are likely the primary consumers of myctophids in the subarctic North Pacific. Since myctophids are the major component of the mesotrophic level, the trophic relationship between myctophids and Dall’s porpoises is thought to be an important pathway of mass and energy in the pelagic food web in the subarctic North Pacific.