Food quality and health are essential for successful porpoise breeding



Lonneke IJsseldijk at the University of Utrecht. Credit: Bas Niemans

Reproduction of harbor porpoises runs into problems when there is not enough high quality food like high calorie fish available, or when the animals are in poor condition. This is one of the conclusions of the doctorate. research by Lonneke IJsseldijk, researcher at the University of Utrecht.

IJsseldijk’s thesis, “Living on a Razor’s Edge: Unraveling Harbor Porpoise Health Through Multidisciplinary and Transboundary Approaches,” examines the dangers faced by porpoises and the importance of international cooperation for their protection. Some of the results of his research have appeared in the scientific journal Scientific reports November 2.

Reproductive problems in many marine mammals have historically been linked to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), chemical pollutants ubiquitous in the environment. The importance of other factors has remained under-studied until now. The new study looked at whether food can play a role during reproduction, in addition to chemicals.

Fat and muscle mass as a measure of health

This was done using a widely studied cetacean; the harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena). IJsseldijk and his colleagues used data on disease, diet, fat and muscle mass – obtained from stranded porpoises and studied post-mortem. In this way, they examined, among other things, whether pregnancy and fetal growth were linked to good nutrition and good health.

IJsseldijk says their “analyzes showed that women in poor health were less likely to become pregnant, terminate pregnancies more often, and their fetuses were developing less well.” These results suggest that weaker or sicker mothers may not be able to carry a pregnancy. “Our research shows how important it is for porpoises to eat high energy density prey: high calorie fish. This is crucial for breeding success and ultimately the size of the harbor porpoise population. . ”

Recently stranded porpoises

Research on the harbor porpoise is far from over and the sea continues to surprise researchers. At the end of August, many dead porpoises suddenly washed up on the Dutch Wadden Islands. Most of these animals turned out to be adult females who had recently become pregnant. This massive stranding is still being studied. A multidisciplinary team of researchers from the universities of Utrecht, Wageningen and Rotterdam, TNO and government organizations, are studying the health and origins of these animals. They will also look for signs of trauma, harmful algae, and infectious disease. The first results of this study are expected later this year, probably at the end of November.


Dutch investigation into the death of mysterious porpoises


More information:
Lonneke L. IJsseldijk et al, Nutritional status and energy density of prey govern reproductive success in a small cetacean,Scientific reports(2021). DOI: 10.1038 / s41598-021-98629-x

Provided by Utrecht University


Quote: Food Quality and Health Is Critical for Successful Porpoise Breeding (2021, November 2) Retrieved November 2, 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2021-11-food-quality-health- shown-essential.html

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