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Britain's Sea Mammals

Britain's Sea Mammals: Whales, Dolphins, Porpoises, and Seals and Where to Find Them

Jon Dunn
Robert Still
Hugh Harrop
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 128
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  • Book Info
    Britain's Sea Mammals
    Book Description:

    Britain's Sea Mammalsis the essential field guide to all the sea mammals--whales, dolphins, porpoises, and seals--found in coastal Britain. The book features more than 100 stunning photographs and close to 40 detailed and beautiful illustrations of 34 species of sea mammals, paying special attention to the 14 species most readily seen and most likely to be encountered. Factoring in behavior and locations, introductory chapters look at sea mammal biology and ecology, and how, when, and where these creatures can be spotted. Species accounts highlight key identification characteristics and include information on status, habitat requirements, and distribution. Handy and informative,Britain's Sea Mammalsis the ideal guide to sea mammal watching in the United Kingdom.

    The only guide that focuses on the 34 species of sea mammal recorded in Britain, particularly the 14 most readily seen speciesMore than 100 photos and almost 40 illustrations highlight species, their behavior, and locationsIntroductory chapters explore how, when, and where to look for sea mammalsSpecies accounts highlight key identification features, including information on status, habitat requirements, and distribution

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4496-8
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Zoology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-2)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 3-4)
  3. About this guide
    (pp. 5-5)
  4. The seas around Britain and Ireland
    (pp. 6-7)

    As an island sitting on the edge of the continental shelf, with the deep Atlantic Ocean to the west, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and warmer subtropical waters relatively close by, Britain is ideally placed both to host a rich resident marine mammal fauna and to be visited by species from much farther afield. It just needs time and effort to be put in to see them.

    What makes British waters so good for marine mammals is the wide range of topography and oceanic conditions that give rise to distinct habitats that appeal to a broad range of species....

  5. What is a marine mammal?
    (pp. 8-11)

    Marine mammals are not a distinct biological grouping, but are defined instead as mammals that have a reliance upon the marine environment for feeding – although not necessarily for breeding. Hence, cetaceans and pinnipeds are considered marine mammals – cetaceans being wholly dependent upon the marine environment throughout their life-cycle, and pinnipeds being dependent on the sea for food, but dry land for resting, moulting and breeding.

    Britain is fortunate to have a burgeoning population of Eurasian Otter (right), which may be found in coastal habitats in parts of Britain and Ireland. Indeed, when Britainʹs rivers were widely polluted, the...

  6. Marine mammal families
    (pp. 12-15)

    With the exception of the Minke Whale, all baleen whales that may be encountered in British waters are large to very large. They include the Blue Whale, the largest animal ever to have lived on Earth. Baleen whales do not possess teeth, instead having a series of comb-like structures called baleen plates that hang from the upper jaw. They feed by opening their cavernous jaws as they swim along; when the mouth is closed, water is strained through the baleen plates leaving quantities of small fish and zooplankton trapped inside. Most members of this group migrate long distances between their...

  7. Observing marine mammals
    (pp. 16-25)

    One of the joys, and at the same time frustrations, of cetacean watching is its unpredictability. Even though some species are resident year-round and others are migratory, and some species favour shallow inshore waters whilst others prefer deep waters beyond the coastal shelf, when it comes to cetacean watching nothing can be taken for granted – and nothing is impossible. Species can sometimes be found far from their favoured habitats – for example, the first confirmed British record of Dwarf Sperm Whale was in shallow inshore waters; a far cry from the deepwater habitat with which this squid-hunting whale is...

  8. Where to watch Britain's marine mammals
    (pp. 26-41)

    The coastline of Britain and Ireland extends to over 26,000 km (16,000 miles) and supports a wide variety of marine habitats The potential for those looking for cetaceans or pinnipeds is, therefore, vast and the aim of this section of the book is to highlight those locations that have a proven track record for sea mammal sightings. It is not intended to be comprehensive, definitive or prescriptive since there are many other sites that are worth visiting – and there is nothing to stop pioneers from seeking out new sites.

    Keeping abreast of the latest sightings in a given region...

  9. Britain's Seals
    (pp. 42-57)

    Two species of seal occur year-round on Britainʹs coastline – Grey and Common (or Harbour) Seals. They are both widely distributed, with Grey Seals, for example, being found at all geographic extremities – from the North Cliffs of Cornwall to the islands of Shetland, and even hauled out on the tidal sandbanks of the English Channel off Kent.

    A further five species of pinniped (Ringed, Bearded, Harp and Hooded Seals; and Walrus) occur sporadically in Britain, though there is a distinct northern bias to the records that reflects their circumpolar distribution. Their occurrences are unpredictable, but are keenly anticipated amongst...

  10. Britain's Cetaceans
    (pp. 58-116)

    There are a dozen cetacean species that occur regularly in British waters; these include permanently or seasonally resident species that inhabit shallow inshore waters around the coasts and those that occur seasonally further offshore.

    Some species are scarcer than others, particularly those that show some preference for deeper water. Although this may in part reflect the relative lack of observer coverage offshore, some species like Humpback Whale and Striped Dolphin are undoubtedly only found in small numbers in British waters.

    Those species that show a preference for inshore waters are more predictable in their habits. Some, like Bottlenose Dolphins, are...

  11. Threats and conservation
    (pp. 117-118)

    For a nation that prides itself upon its maritime history, our track record in marine conservation is somewhat chequered. In living memory, whales were still being hunted commercially in British waters, and it is not so long ago that the killing of seals for their skins was an accepted cottage industry in some parts of Britain. Whilst those days are now long gone, the marine mammals that live in or pass through our waters still face considerable challenges imposed upon them by our use of their natural habitat.

    The days of unregulated fishing may have passed, but there remains a...

  12. Recording and getting involved
    (pp. 118-118)

    Records of marine mammal sightings help to build an increasingly comprehensive and accurate picture of the distribution and state of health of our marine wildlife. With the advent of relatively cheap and high quality digital photography, images of individual cetaceans can now be collated by researchers, allowing previously undreamed of opportunities to track the movements of specific animals around our coast. For example, particular animals may have distinctive scarring to their back or dorsal fin which may assist in securing an identification of the individual concerned. Hence, whenever possible observers should try to get photographs of the animals involved in...

  13. Stranded cetaceans and marine mammal rescue
    (pp. 119-119)

    Occasionally, cetaceans strand upon our shores, either dead or still alive. Similarly, injured seals may be encountered from time to time. Animals found under such circumstances should, if still alive, be reported immediately to marine mammal rescue groups such as British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) (seepage 123). With experienced intervention, there is always a possibility that a live-stranded cetacean or an injured seal can be successfully re-floated or rehabilitated. Even a dead cetacean can contribute significant information via postmortem, such as cause of death, diet,etc.

    Seals: Not every seal on land is in need of rescue. Lying...

  14. Observation guidelines
    (pp. 120-121)

    There are no formal, legally binding guidelines for viewing seals on land in Britain. They should be treated in the same way as when one watches any wild animals – with common-sense, respect for the animalsʹ welfare at all times, and good field-craft.

    Seals are sensitive to disturbance, and careless behaviour on the part of observers at their haul-out sites will result in them returning with haste to the security of the sea. This can have profound impacts upon the animals, such as a general loss of condition through the needless expenditure of energy. Interference with un-weaned young can reduce...

  15. Further reading
    (pp. 122-122)
  16. Useful addresses and web resources
    (pp. 123-123)
  17. Photographic and artwork credits
    (pp. 124-125)
  18. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 126-126)
  19. Index of English and scientific names
    (pp. 127-128)