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Bridging the gap between science and management: sociality in female bottlenose dolphins reveals an area of high conservation value, Bunbury, Western Australia

Smith, H., Bejder, L., Kobryn, H. and Waples, K. (2013) Bridging the gap between science and management: sociality in female bottlenose dolphins reveals an area of high conservation value, Bunbury, Western Australia. In: 20th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, 9 - 13 December, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Abstract

To make behavioural ecology useful to wildlife management the gap between science and management must be bridged. This study investigated association patterns in bottlenose dolphins in Bunbury, Western Australia. Understanding how these associations varied across time and space enabled the identification of temporal and spatial locations of high conservation value. To achieve this, boat-based surveys were conducted year-round on line transects over a 120km2 study area (33° 20' S, 115° 38' E). In total, 777 dolphin groups (N=212 transects) were encountered between March 2007 and February 2010. Of the 144 adult dolphins identified, 71 were of known sex and were sighted ≥ 5 times and analysed. To measure the temporal stability of adult dolphin association patterns we calculated the Lagged Association Rates using SOCPROG 2.3. Adult female-female Lagged Association Rates remained consistently higher and stable than the null association rate over three years. The Lagged Association Rates for adult females showed a distinct seasonal cyclic pattern, peaking each summer. In winter, the density (calculated using kernel density ArcGIS 9.2) of adult females was even across the study area but in summer this contracted to hotspots in the Bunbury inner waters. The study highlighted three key findings. Firstly, habitat use changed seasonally with adult dolphins aggregating in the Bunbury inner waters in the warmer months. Secondly, strong seasonal bonds formed between adult females at this time. Lastly, the timing of female sociality and use of the inner waters coincided with the peak in calving. The distribution of dolphins is predictable in both time (warm months) and space (Bunbury inner waters) and coupled with the significance of the seasonal female sociality and calving, identified an area of high conservation value. We recommend that these findings be incorporated into management strategies to conserve the dolphin population.

Publication Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Notes: Poster presentation
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/20226
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