We are pleased to announce the following publication in Animal Conservation:
Full citation: Smith, H., Frere, C., Kobryn, H. and Bejder, L. 2016. Dolphin sociality, distribution and calving as important behavioural patterns informing management. Animal Conservation. doi: 10.1111/acv.12263
Highlights of the paper:
- Female dolphin distribution, sociality and calving are predictable in time and space.
- Seasonal cyclicity in social bonds were document for the first time for any dolphin species – and were evident between adult female bottlenose dolphins.
- Inner waters and warm months identified as conservation value for females and calves.
- Year-round monitoring was essential in detecting spatio-temporal patterns.
- Study informed the implementation of a legislative no-go vessel area.
Abstract: Conservation management typically focuses on protecting wildlife habitat that is linked to important behaviours such as resting, breeding or caring for young. However, development of conservation strategies of social species would beneﬁt from inclusion of social dynamics, particularly for species where social relationships inﬂuence ﬁtness measures such as survival and reproduction. We combined the study of dolphin sociality, distribution and calving to identify important behavioural and ecological patterns to inform management. Over three consecutive years, 231 boat-based photo-identiﬁcation surveys were conducted to individually identify adult female bottlenose dolphins over a 120 km2 area in Bunbury, Western Australia. The density distribution of female dolphins was highest in the inner waters during December–February (austral summer) and March (early autumn), which also coincided in time with the majority of calving. The temporal stability of social bonds between adult females was measured (using lagged association rates) and remained stable over multiple years. A cyclic model best described female–female associations with an annual peak occurring each austral summer (Dec–Jan–Feb). These results informed the implementation of a legislative no-go area and vessel speed restriction areas. In addition to conventional management approaches of protecting important habitat and breeding periods, our measure of dolphin sociality provides a new metric to consider in conservation efforts. We encourage studies on socially complex species to incorporate social dynamics when evaluating possible impacts of anthropogenic activities.
Relevant publications: a list of further publications on the Bunbury dolphin population – made possible through the South West Marine Research Program:
- Sprogis, K., Raudino, HC., Rankin R., MacLeod, C. and Bejder, L. 2016. Home range size of adult Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) in a coastal and estuarine system is habitat and sex-specific. Marine Mammal Science 32: 287–308.
- Sprogis KR, Pollock KH, Raudino HC, Allen SJ, Kopps AM, Manlik O, Tyne JA and Bejder L (2016). Sex-specific patterns in abundance, temporary emigration and survival of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) in coastal and estuarine waters. Frontiers in Marine Science. 3:12. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2016.00012 OPEN ACCESS – freely downloadable.
- Smith, H.C., Pollock, K., Waples, K., Bradley, S. and Bejder, L. 2013. Use of the Robust Design to estimate abundance and demographic parameters for a coastal bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) population. PLoS One 8(10): e76574. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0076574 OPEN ACCESS – downloadable.
Project Funding: We thank the funding partners for financial support from the South West Marine Research Program: Bemax Cable Sands, BHP Billiton Worsley Alumina Ltd, the Bunbury Dolphin Discovery Centre, Bunbury Port Authority, City of Bunbury, Cristal Mining, the Western Australian Department of Parks and Wildlife, Iluka, Millard Marine, Naturaliste Charters, Newmont Boddington Gold, South West Development Commission and WA Plantation Resources. Holly Raudino (nee Smith) was supported throughout her PhD by a Murdoch University Postgraduate Scholarship.