Side-scan sonar records collected during March and April 1981 and 1982 off northern California contain elongate depressions whose sizes and shapes are similar to sea-floor gouges made by feeding gray whales (Eschrichtius robustus) in the northern Bering Sea and in shallow embayments off British Columbia. The discovery of the whale gouges in the sonar records was unexpected, and supports some of the previous speculation that gray whales feed opportunistically during migration. Gouges occupy about 0.032% of the 7.6 km2 of sea floor that was surveyed, which represents about 575 metric tons of excavated material. Although seemingly minor in amount, the total amount of bottom sediment removed from the central and northern California continental shelf by gray whale activities year after year represents macroscale biologically induced erosion and could have significant geological implications in shelf erosion and depositional schemes. This is the only published evidence of benthic feeding by gray whales along their migration route off northern California. ?? 1987.
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Sea-floor gouges caused by migrating gray whales off northern California