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Sex-specific differences in the seasonal habitat use of a coastal dolphin population

Sprogis, K.R., Christiansen, F., Raudino, H.C., Kobryn, H.T.ORCID: 0000-0003-1004-7593, Wells, R.S. and Bejder, L. (2018) Sex-specific differences in the seasonal habitat use of a coastal dolphin population. Biodiversity and Conservation, 27 (14). pp. 3637-3656.

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Understanding the factors that contribute to a population’s habitat use is important for conservation planners and managers to identify reasons behind a population’s distribution. Habitat use often differs between sexes, however few studies on sexually monomorphic species document this difference, resulting in misleading ecological interpretations and non-targeted management actions. The aim of this study was to test for sex-specific differences in the seasonal habitat use of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) off Bunbury, Australia. Systematic, boat-based, photographic identification dolphin surveys (n = 587) were conducted across seasons over 6 years during 2007–2013. Generalised additive models explored relationships between the presence-absence of dolphins and sex, water depth and benthic habitat type. Results highlighted that: (i) habitat use differed seasonally for males and females, (ii) depth had a strong influence on habitat use, which differed between sexes for summer, winter and spring, and (iii) there were no sex differences in habitat use in autumn, which coincides with the peak breeding season. In summer and autumn dolphins were concentrated in shallow, near-shore waters predominantly over reef and sand, and in winter and spring dolphins had a broader distribution over reef and mud/silt with the use of deeper, offshore waters. This pattern is consistent with the seasonally-dependent dolphin abundance that has been documented for this population. Identification of sex differences in habitat use provides management agencies with insights to implement informed actions for the conservation of this coastal dolphin population which is forecast to decline by 50% in the next two decades.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Springer
Copyright: © 2018 Springer Nature B.V.
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