Mediterranean mammals & cetaceans

The underwater treasures of the Mediterranean Sea: dolphins, sperm whales,
whales and seals

The Pelagos Marine Sanctuary: a thriving Mediterranean ecosystem

At the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, the Pelagos marine sanctuary extends over more than 80,000 square kilometers, encompassing the waters of the Ligurian-Provençal basin between France, Corsica and Italy.

This protected area is distinguished by its complex underwater topography, made up of various basins of varying depths. Nutrient upwelling from the depths feeds a flourishing food chain, providing habitat for an abundance of marine mammals, sharks and rays, particularly during the summer period when prey is plentiful.

You can admire these cetaceans and mammals at some twenty dive sites in the Var.

The fascinating cetaceans of the Mediterranean

The waters of the Mediterranean Sea are home to some twenty of the world's 90 cetacean species. Although some species are rarer and found in other oceans, they find refuge in this exceptional sea.

Whales, dolphins and porpoises amaze lucky observers. Baleen whales, such as the fin whale, are the largest, using their baleen plates to filter marine waters and feed on small organisms such as krill. Toothed cetaceans, like dolphins, hunt larger prey such as fish and squid.


The majestic sperm whale of the Mediterranean depths

One of the Pelagos sanctuary's most notable residents is the sperm whale, one of the largest species of marine mammals. These impressive creatures, measuring over 15 metres in length and weighing up to 40 tonnes, are formidable squid hunters. Thanks to their sonar, they dive to depths of up to 2,000 metres to track down their prey in the abyss. Sperm whales are true echolocation experts, using this system to locate and capture their prey with precision.

The whale kingdom in Mediterranean waters

The most common whale in the Mediterranean Sea is the fin whale, an impressive species that can measure over twenty meters in length. These majestic giants feed mainly on small planktonic organisms, which they filter through their baleen plates. Every day, an adult whale can consume between one and two tons of krill, shrimp and small fish. Despite their imposing size, whales are harmless animals that depend on these resources for their survival.

Pinnipeds: masters of land and sea

Pinnipeds, a group of marine mammals, include seals, sea lions and walruses.

With their hydrodynamic bodies, front and rear fins, insulating layer of fat and fur, they are perfectly adapted to life in the water. Seals, in particular, have special features, such as sensitive whiskers and ears, which enable them to locate their prey and recognize their young.

The fascinating world of seals

The Mediterranean Sea is home to nineteen species and several subspecies of seal, some of which are endemic to the region. Monk seals, such as the Mediterranean monk seal, are the only pinniped species to reside exclusively in this sea. These seals often live solitary lives, feeding mainly on fish, squid and seafood, which are abundant in their coastal habitat.


In the coastal and deep waters of the Mediterranean Sea: dolphins are king!

The blue and white dolphin is the most widespread marine mammal throughout the Mediterranean. Its pigmentation makes it easily recognizable, although it can vary in intensity. It is often observed in groups of 5 to 50 individuals, preferring deep waters.

The common dolphin is widely distributed throughout the world's temperate seas, and is found irregularly throughout the Mediterranean. Its distribution differs markedly from that of the blue and white dolphin. In fact, the common dolphin has a preference for coastal areas, moving closer to the shallower seabed near the coast. This is due to its diet, which is mainly based on small fish. The Bottlenose dolphin is also found in the Mediterranean, as in all the world's seas, with the exception of completely enclosed seas and cold regions. Unlike other Mediterranean cetacean species, it prefers to inhabit the continental shelf in groups of around ten individuals, usually including one or two small juveniles. Other species present in the Mediterranean include the Risso's dolphin and the short-finned pilot whale.

The challenges mammals face humanity

Unfortunately, seals and other pinnipeds, like cetaceans, face many threats. These include dwindling food resources, shark predation, accidental entanglement in fishing gear and marine debris, and habitat loss due to human development. The survival of these species depends on our commitment to protecting their environment and preventing threats to them.

In the Mediterranean Sea, a symphony of marine species evolves and fights for survival. Each encounter with these magnificent creatures reminds us of the importance of preserving this fragile ecosystem and ensuring that the Mediterranean's underwater riches continue to amaze future generations.