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The morphology of euphausiid mandibles used to assess selective predation by blue whales in the southern sector of the California Current System


We describe the mandibular morphology of the eight most abundant euphausiid species in the California Current and report regression relationships between mandible size and body total length. We applied these species-specific characters to the mandibles recovered from fecal samples of 18 blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus (Linnaeus, 1758)) collected between 1998 to 2015 off Southern California to test for selective feeding on the euphausiid assemblage. The diets of blue whales were consistently and overwhelmingly dominated by the large neritic euphausiid Thysanoessa spinifera Holmes, 1900, even when other species were present or dominant in closely collected net samples. More than 99% of the ingested euphausiids were longer than 10 mm, indicating that blue whales in this region are highly selective by prey species and size class, and dependent upon aggregations of juveniles or adults of a limited number of coastally associated euphausiid species.

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