The cetaceans of Aruba, southern Caribbean
Aruba is one of the most densely populated islands in the Caribbean. However, very little is known about its cetaceans. In 2010 and 2011, a total of 19721 km (1686 h) boat-based surveys over nearshore transects resulted in 117 positively-identified sightings comprising eight species. New records are also added for one of three previously-documented species. Five additional species were documented from strandings or reports by others. This brings the total number of cetacean species identified in Aruban waters to 16, of which nine are authenticated here for the first time. Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis (N 1⁄4 59) and bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) (N 1⁄4 33) were the most frequently observed species, with sightings of both year-round, followed by spinner dolphin (S. longirostris) and false killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens). Additional species recorded are pantropical spotted dolphin (S. attenuata), striped dolphin (S. coeruleoalba), common dolphin (Delphinus capensis), rough-toothed dolphin (Steno bredanensis), short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus), killer whale (Orcinus orca), Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus), humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), Bryde’s/Eden’s whale (Balaenoptera brydei/edeni), sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) and an unidentified beaked whale (Mesoplodon sp.). All cetaceans were sighted within 22 km of the coast in relatively shallow waters. Sighting rate was low (0.69 cetacean sightings per 100 km). Sightings of calves and neonates indicate that Aruba may be a nursing or breeding area for some species. The presence of several species of cetaceans in Aruba’s coastal waters year-round indicates that status and threat assessments are needed to protect them.