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Migratory Cetaceans in  Tenerife

As one year draws to a close and people celebrate the beginning of a new year, many animal species may also be preparing to undertake their annual or seasonal migrations. Animal migrations are defined as “the movement of a vast number of animals”; and it occurs in many species. Included in lists of migratory species are a number of cetaceans that travel through the waters around Tenerife.

Marine mammals are drawn to these waters for a number of different reasons. Notably, the depths of the waters around the Canary Islands attract plentiful sources of food for the cetaceans, such as schools of fish and giant squid. Furthermore, the geographical positioning of the archipelago is such that it attracts many migrant species travelling between the cold waters and tropical waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Examples of migratory species that can be found here include:

• Sperm Whales (Pyseter macrocephalus)

Most commonly found in the Canary Islands in Spring time, they are attracted hereby the presence of giant squid; a primary source of food.

• Atlantic Spotted Dolphins (Stenella frontalis)

Frequently seen in the area during the period from autumn to early summer, especially close to Tenerife.

• Common Dolphins (Delphinus delphis)

This species can be frequently found in the area during winter months.

If you are lucky, a visit to the Canary Islands might allow you the chance to glimpse one of the more elusive species that can be found in the area, for example:

•  Blue Whales (Balaenoptera musculus)

• Killer Whales (Orcinus orca)

These species pass through the island’s waters in pursuit of their prey that are also completing their migrations back to the Mediterranean. Further examples of migratory cetaceans the pass through the waters around the Canary Islands include:

• Fin Whales (Balaenoptera physalus)

• Fraser’s Dolphins (Lagenodelphis hosei)

• Minke Whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata)

• Sei Whales (Balaenoptera borealis)

• Striped Dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba)

In fact, 1/3 of all whale and dolphin species are resident species or travel through the waters of the Canary Islands (whalesanddolphinsoftenerife.org), such as high diversity of cetacean species in one are makes it an ideal location for some ethical whale and dolphin watching!

By Carolyn Foster - Tenerife Assistant Research Officer

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