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  • Author: K. A. Vishnyakova x
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There are two porpoise stocks in the northern Black Sea: the north-western (Odessa Gulf) and northeastern (Crimean and Caucasian waters); in addition, another stock is in the Sea of Azov. The Azov porpoises are distinct in their body size and biology. This research was conducted on the skulls of stranded sexually mature porpoises from the north-eastern Black Sea, north-western Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. In the north-eastern Black Sea samples, both present-day and old-time, the sexual dimorphism of the skull size was not significant, whereas in the Sea of Azov the females were significantly larger than males. The Azov skulls were strongly different from those from the Black Sea: they were larger, proportionally wider and had the wider rostra; also, there was no significant chronological variation within the Black Sea. The Azov and Black Sea samples were classified with the 100 % success with four variables. The northwestern Black Sea skulls were somewhat intermediate in their characteristics between the Azov and northeastern Black Sea samples, but they were classify ed together with other Black Sea specimens. The difference between the Azov and Black Sea skulls was greater than between many North Atlantic populations, despite the extreme geographical proximity of the two stocks. The low variation within the Black Sea supports the earlier conclusions on the lack of genetic variation: all the Black Sea stocks are expected to be genetically similar sub-populations, whereas the Azov and Marmara stocks possibly represent the genetically distant populations. The porpoises from the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov equally show the traits which characterize the subspecies Phocoena phocoena relicta, but the Black Sea porpoises appear to be more paedomorphic in terms of ontogenetic trajectories.


The first assessment of cetacean density and abundance by linear transect survey was conducted in 2016 and 2017 in the shallowest coastal area of the Ukrainian sector of the north-western Black Sea, in the Dzharylgach Gulf and the northern Karkinit Gulf, total area up to 259 km2. Three cetacean species were found present in the area in summer, and the harbour porpoise was the most abundant species with the abundance of at least a few hundred animals (estimated as 175 individuals in the Dzharylgach Gulf), whereas the common dolphins (59) and bottlenose dolphins (31) were present in lesser numbers. Common and bottlenose dolphins showed the clearest patterns of habitat preferences, being restricted respectively to the Dzharylgach and the northern Karkinit Gulf; an unusual trait is the preference of the shallowest habitat by common dolphins. Recorded density of harbour porpoises in the Dzharylgach Gulf is among the highest in the whole Black Sea. Thus, the studied area may be an important summer habitat for cetaceans.