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Morphological differences between coastal bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) populations identified using non-invasive stereo-laser photogrammetry

van Aswegen, M., Christiansen, F., Symons, J., Mann, J., Nicholson, K., Sprogis, K. and Bejder, L. (2019) Morphological differences between coastal bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) populations identified using non-invasive stereo-laser photogrammetry. Scientific Reports, 9 (1).

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Free to read: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-48419-3
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Abstract

Obtaining morphometric data on free-ranging marine megafauna is difficult, as traditional methods rely on post-mortem or live-capture techniques. We linked stereo-laser photogrammetry with long-term demographic data to compare length-at-age (LaA) growth curves of two well-studied populations of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) in south-western (SW) and Shark Bay (SB), mid-western Australia. First, we determined the relationship between total length (TL) and blowhole-to-dorsal fin (BH-DF) length from post-mortem subjects (R2 = 0.99, n = 12). We then predicted TL from laser-derived BH-DF measurements of 129 and 74 known-age individuals in SW and SB, respectively. Richards growth models best described our LaA data. While birth length (103–110 cm) was similar between study regions, TL estimates at 1, 3, 12, and 25 years differed significantly (p < 0.001). Asymptotic length of adult males (SW = 246 cm, SB = 201 cm) and females (SW = 244 cm, SB = 200 cm) also differed significantly. Morphotypic variations likely reflect regional adaptations to local water temperatures, with the temperate SW having cooler waters than sub-tropical SB. We demonstrate the effectiveness of a non-invasive technique to understand ecological, demographic and life-history characteristics of long-lived marine megafauna, which are critical parameters for informing conservation and management actions.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: Environmental and Conservation Sciences
Harry Butler Institute
Publisher: Springer Nature
Copyright: © 2019 Springer Nature Publishing AG
United Nations SDGs: Goal 14: Life Below Water
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/50628
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