West Africa, Cetacean, distribution, stranding, review, Eubalaena australis, Balaenoptera musculus, Balaenoptera physalus, Balaenoptera borealis, Balaenoptera edeni, Balaenoptera acutorostrata, Megaptera novaeangliae, Balaenoptera bonaerensis, Physeter macrocephalus, Kogia sima, Ziphius cavirostris, orcinus orca, Globicephala macrorhynchus, Pseudorca crassidens, Peponocephala electra, sousa teuszii, Atlantic humpback dolphin, Steno bredanensis, Grampus griseus, Tursiops truncatus, Stenella attenuata, stenella longiristris, Stenella frontalis, Stenella coeruleoalba, Delphinus delphis, Lagenodelphis hosei
1. The cetacean fauna of the west coast of Africa is poorly described. Therefore, literature on the occurrence of cetacean species in the waters of 13 potential West African range states from the Gulf of Guinea to Angola was reviewed, including sighting, stranding, capture, bycatch and whaling records. 2. At least 28 species of cetacean were documented in the study region, comprising seven baleen whale species and 21 species of toothed whale (including at least 17 delphinid species). 3. Cetaceans could be broadly split into seven ecological categories, based on their distribution. A warm temperate/tropical deep-water cetacean community dominated the study area. Cooler water from the Benguela Current influenced southern Angola (16°S latitude) and at least three cetacean species occurred predominantly in this region. 4. Only three or fewer species were confirmed in the waters of Togo, Nigeria, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Seventeen or more species were documented in Ghana, Gabon and Angola, where dedicated cetacean research projects have been initiated in recent years. Angola had the most diverse documented cetacean community: 28 confirmed species. 5. The humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae was the most widely recorded species, and was documented in 11 (85%) countries. Sperm whales Physeter macrocephalus, Bryde’s whales Balaenoptera cf. brydei, bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus and Atlantic spotted dolphins Stenella frontalis were recorded in over half of the countries.