Ziphius and plastic debris (fwd)

From: Pita Admininstrator (
Date: Thu Jul 18 2002 - 10:35:23 EDT

Date: Wed, 17 Jul 2002 18:58:35 +0100
From: Andy Williams <andy.williams@BISCAY-DOLPHIN.ORG.UK>
Subject: Re: Ziphius and plastic debris

Recently 3 Cuvier's, stranded on the Iberian coast and examined by
colleagues from AMBAR have had significant quatities of plastic in their

The individuals were 6.18m, 4.9m and 4.56m in length

There have been other reports of Ziphius ingesting plastic and this was
highlighted in a poster by Poncelet, Von-Canneyt and Boubert at the SMM
conference in Maui. On that occasion the individual had 33kg of wet plastic
in its stomach, that individual was an immature male.

This may be a particular problem for Ziphius because of the type of prey
they generally feed on (Santos et al 2002 and Williams et al in prep and in
review) and the depth at which it is aqcuired.

It would be interesting to have a breakdown of all of the types of plastic
to see if there is consistency of type, ie clear bags or clear sheets,
opaque bags etc.

I hope this contributes to the discussion.


Andy Williams
Southampton Oceanography Centre
School of Ocean and Earth Sciences
European Way
Southampton SO14 3ZH
Visit us at
Tel/Fax +44 (0) 23 9255 2631

Biscay Dolphin Research Programme
6 Manor Way
Lee on Solent
Hampshire PO13 9JH

-----Original Message-----
From: European Cetacean Society (ECS) [mailto:ECS-ALL@JISCMAIL.AC.UK]On
Behalf Of Dan Kerem
Sent: 17 July 2002 15:40
Subject: Re: Ziphius and plastic debris

Dear Nick and Alexandros,

Thanks for your comments.

The point is well taken and I can not realy distinguish, at least between a
long and a short-term burden. The main chamber, as I understand it, has no
acidic secretion and is often volitionally flooded with ingested sea water
(as it was in our case), so the residence time of the debris (the main bulk
was in this chamber, 46 separate pieces, black, grey, white and sky blue)
would be hard to determine. We also found plastic shreds in the other
chambers and we have no clue how long they have been there. Plastic made to
disintegrate in the chemical environment of the GI tract would have made
things easier and would have solved some of the problems relating to the
3rd possibility of the debris interfering with passage and digestion.
In our case, passages were not blocked and there was sparse fecal material
with a few beaks throughout the length of the rectum.

Colin MacLeod claims that Ziphius is particularly prone to plastic
ingestion. We had only one other case on which I can comment, a partly
decomposed adult male in seemingly good body condition that had lots of
beaks and one very small piece of plastic in the stomach. So, please keep
the discussion lively.

Alexandros, do you have a photo of an individual that is about 4.2 m long?
Our specimen has quite a sunken forehead, to the point that we are still
not certain on the ID. I am still waiting for good photos to distribute.



At 03:40 AM 7/17/02 +0300, A. Frantzis wrote:
>Dear Dan,
>Thanks for the information and the ideas regarding plastic debris in the
>stomach of cetaceans. You gave the opportunity to Nick (who is always
>active in sharing ideas and starting interesting discussions) to make
>some very useful questions to test your theory.
>>>Incidently, does anyone know at what age/length do the teeth erupt
>>>in a male Ziphius?
>According to data from Ziphius strandings in Greece, the larger male
>that had no errupted teeth was 5.20 m long. All males with lower total
>lengths had no errupted teeth. The smaller male with errupted teeth also
>measured 5.20 m and all larger males had errupted teeth. The sample of
>males < 5.10 m is quite important, however the sample of large males
>with errupted teeth is small. It seems reasonable to say that
>5.20+/-0.10 m is the length during which the teeth of (eastern
>Mediterranean???) Cuvier's beaked whales start to errupt.
>If there is anyone (especially from the Med or the NE Atlantic) who can
>add some data regarding the question of Dan, it would be interesting to
>make comparisons.
>Best whiches,
>Dr. Alexandros Frantzis
>Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute
>Terpsichoris 21
>tel/fax : ++3010 / 8960108
>e-mail :
Dan Kerem, Ph.D.
IMMRAC (Israeli Marine Mammal Research and Assistance Center)
The Recanati Institute for Maritime Studies
The University of Haifa
Mount Carmel, Haifa 31905
Tel: + 972-4-8249449 Fax: + 972-4-8240493

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