Lakshadweep Archipelago IMMA

Size in Square Kilometres

86,717 km2

Qualifying Species and Criteria

Marine Mammal Diversity 

Criterion D (ii)

Tursiops aduncus, Stenella longirostris, Tursiops truncatus, Globicephala macrorhynchus, Grampus griseus, Stenella attenuata, Stenella coeruleoalba, Pseudorca crassidens, Feresa attenuata, Kogia sima, Physeter macrocephalus, Ziphius cavirostris, Orcinus orca, Balaenoptera musculus



The Lakshadweep Archipelago consists of coral atolls located 220-440 km to the southwest of the Indian coast. The area consists of diverse habitat types – coral reefs, sea grass beds, rocky shores, sandy shores, mangrove creeks, deep-water canyons and trenches offer a vast biodiversity landscape for cetaceans.  Deep-water slopes like the ones found around Lakshadweep generates flows and upwelling of nutrients that aggregate plankton and attracts a vast diversity of marine life. The proximity to Maldives suggests an overlap in biodiversity of marine megafauna and genetic connectedness between populations. At least 14 species of cetaceans have been documented throughout the area, based on confirmed sightings, carcasses washed ashore and anecdotal information. As part of the larger Chagos-Laccadives plateau an overlap in species complexes and populations with the Maldives ‘would’ be significant, making the entire island system a core marine mammal habitat.

Description of Qualifying Criteria

Criterion D: Special Attributes

Sub-criterion Dii: Diversity

The complex bathymetry of the area harbours at least 14 cetacean species. The shallow areas around the islands are used by spinner dolphins and bottlenose dolphins all throughout the year. Other cetaceans reported with confirmed sightings are Risso’s dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, striped dolphins, spinner dolphins, Cuvier’s beaked whales, dwarf sperm whales, short-finned pilot whales, sperm whales, false killer whales, pantropical spotted dolphins, pygmy killer whales, killer whales, sperm whales, as well as other unidentified baleen whales (Panicker, 2017). In dedicated research surveys over 3880.33 km of survey distance, 128 hours and 52 minutes were undertaken, resulting in 139 sightings, of which 78 were collected during survey effort and the rest were sighted off-effort (Panicker et al., in press). These areas are rich in seagrass beds used by green sea turtles, olive Ridley turtles and several species of elasmobranchs. Fisher reports suggest seasonal occurrence of large whales identified by blows that can be seen from a distance. Other sightings from the region have been taken from platforms of opportunity, therefore the diversity from this region may be an underestimate and likely biased against deep-diving, cryptic or rare species.

Supporting Information

Afsal, V. V., K. S. S. M. Yousuf, B. Anoop, A. K. Anoop, P. Kannan, M. Rajagopalan, and E. Vivekanandan. 2008. A note on cetacean distribution in the Indian EEZ and contiguous seas during 2003-07. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 10(3): 209-216.

Kumar, KV Aneesh, Sibi T. Baby, K. V. Dhaneesh, Hashim Manjebrayakath, N. Saravanane, and M. Sudhakar. 2018. A Stranding Record of Dwarf Sperm Whale Kogia sima in Lakshadweep Archipelago, India and its Genetic Analogy by Molecular Phylogeny. Thalassa: An International Journal of Marine Sciences 1-7.

Panicker, D, Sutaria, D, Kumar, A, Stafford, K. (In Press). Cetacean Distribution and Diversity in Lakshadweep Waters, India Using a Platform of Opportunity: October 2015 to April 2016. Aquatic Mammals

Panicker, D. 2017. Cetacean Diversity and Distribution in the Lakshadweep Islands, India. Final report to Rufford Foundation for Small Grants Final Report.pdf

Sajikumar, Kurichithara, K., Nadakkal Ragesh, and Kolliyil S. Mohamed. 2014. Behaviour of Short-finned Pilot Whales Globicephala macrorhynchus (Gray, 1846) (Mammalia: Cetartiodactyla: Delphinidae) in the southeastern Arabian Sea. Journal of Threatened Taxa. 6(11): 6488-6492.


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