Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (2001)

DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2000.1419


Harbour porpoises in the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine feed primarily on Atlantic herring. Herring stocks have undergone dramatic fluctuations in abundance over the past three decades due to changes in fishing intensity. In order to understand the effects of these changes in prey abundance on the patterns of maternal investment, I examined interdecadal variation in the size of porpoise calves measured in August prior to weaning. Female harbour porpoises exhibited significant variation in maternal investment between 1970 and 1999. During the 1980s, females consumed more herring and produced larger calves. Surprisingly, however, this increased maternal investment occurred during the period of lowest prey abundance, perhaps because the herring stock assessment does not reflect the availability or quality of prey to female porpoises.