Publication alert: Dolphin sociality, distribution and calving as important behavioural patterns informing management

Home / Latest News / Publication alert: Dolphin sociality, distribution and calving as important behavioural patterns informing management

We are pleased to announce the following publication in Animal Conservation:

DOLPHIN SOCIALITY, DISTRIBUTION AND CALVING AS IMPORTANT BEHAVIOURAL PATTERNS INFORMING MANAGEMENT”.

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.

The temporal stability of social bonds between adult female dolphins in 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). This is the first time that cyclicity in dolphin sociality has been detected.

The temporal stability of social bonds between adult female dolphins 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). This is the first time that cyclicity in dolphin sociality has been detected.

Density plots of adult female dolphins sighted during each austral season March 2007-February 2010, sightings pooled across years and includes repeated sightings of the same individuals. Dolphin sightings contract to the inner Bunbury waters (i.e. Koombana Bay and the Leschenault Estuary cut) over summer and autumn and dissipate over the larger study area in winter and spring.

Density plots of adult female dolphins sighted during each austral season (March 2007-February 2010; sightings pooled across years and includes repeated sightings of the same individuals). Dolphin sightings contract to the inner Bunbury waters (Koombana Bay and the Leschenault Estuary cut) over summer and autumn and dissipate over the larger study area in winter and spring.

Download the paper: The article can be downloaded HERE, or alternatively, please email Holly for a PDF at Holly.Raudino@DPaW.wa.gov.au

Relevant publications: a list of further publications on the Bunbury dolphin population – made possible through the South West Marine Research Program:

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.

Lars Bejder PhD
Lars Bejder PhD
Professor Lars Bejder PhD is the Research Leader of the Murdoch University Cetacean Research Unit.
Recommended Posts
Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.