Ethology and Behavioral Ecology of Odontocetes
conservation status, Sousa teuszii, Bycatch, threats, vaquita, Phocoena sinus, Atlantic humpback dolphin, Extinction, management, population trends
Despite centuries of whaling focused mostly on mysticete species, eight of the ten most endangered species of cetaceans in the world today are odontocetes. These species have certain features of their ecology in common, such as coastal habitats and usually ranges in developing countries, but also have some shared behavioral and social traits, such as strong susceptibility to entanglement in fishing nets and acoustic disturbance. I use four species of small cetaceans as case studies to examine the elements that have caused their predicaments. It is likely that the vaquita (Phocoena sinus) will soon become the second species of cetacean to go extinct in modern times, and the Atlantic humpback dolphin (Sousa teuszii) appears to be the next most endangered species. Several other cetacean species are facing similar levels of risk—despite some having misleading status assessments. There is a need to learn from our past mistakes to provide better protection to those species at risk and thereby avoid future extinctions.