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Are Cetacea ecologically important?
Katona, S.; Whitehead, H. (1988). Are Cetacea ecologically important? Oceanogr. Mar. Biol. Ann. Rev. 26: 553-568
In: Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review. Aberdeen University Press/Allen & Unwin: London. ISSN 0078-3218, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

    Autecology; Indicator species; Whaling; Cetacea [WoRMS]; Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Katona, S.
  • Whitehead, H.

    In undisturbed ecosystems, cetacean biomass is similar to that of other smaller size classes and cetaceans may be useful indicators of ecosystem health and productivity. Cetaceans are important in energy flux within marine and selected freshwater systems, but usually do not affect nutrient cycling to a significant degree.Cetacean carcasses provide important food sources for terrestrial and benthic scavengers. Feeding grey whales disturb local benthic environments on a scale equivalent to major geological forces. Living cetaceans are colonized by a diverse fauna of commensal and parasitic invertebrates. Seabirds and some fishes benefit from feeding associations with cetaceans. Cetacean sounds are prominent in the ocean and could be useful as cues to other animals. Fishes and invertebrates do not show noticeable adaptations to cetacean predators, but cetaceans themselves display defensive adaptations against killer whales. Whaling has altered ecosystem structure in Antarctica and perhaps other places, and the whaling industry caused profound ecological effects, especially on some oceanic islands. Cetacean entanglement in fishing gear can harm local fisheries, but there is no concrete evidence that they harm fisheries in other ways. In some cases they may benefit fishermen by removing species that could compete for commercially harvestable fish.

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