Variability in the nutritional value of the major copepods in Cape Cod Bay (Massachusetts, USA) with implications for right whales

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The North Atlantic right whale, a seriously endangered species, is found in Cape Cod Bay (Massachusetts, USA) during the winter and early spring. During their residency in these waters, these whales are frequently observed feeding. This study evaluated spatial and temporal changes in the chemical composition (carbon weight and C/N ratio) of the food resource targeted by the right whales in Cape Cod Bay. The three taxa measured (Centropages typicus, Pseudocalanus spp., and Calanus finmarchicus) had highly variable chemical compositions resulting from the different life strategies and from fluctuations in their surrounding environment. The impact of seasonal variability in the energy densities of the food resource of right whales was calculated and compared to the energetic requirements of these whales. Calculations indicated that differences in the nutritional content of the zooplankton prey in Cape Cod Bay could have a considerable effect on the nutrition available to the right whales. Therefore, it is likely that using more precise estimates of the energetic densities of the prey of right whales would lead to a re-evaluation of the adequacy of the food resource available to these whales in the North Atlantic. © 2006 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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Marine Ecology