DOI: 10.1007/s10144-016-0566-x

Association patterns and population dynamics of bottlenose dolphins in the Strait of Sicily (Central Mediterranean Sea): implication for management

1. BioacousticsLab, IAMC Capo Granitola, National Research Council, Torretta Granitola, Italy

2. BioacousticsLab, IAMC Capo Granitola, National Research Council, Torretta Granitola, Italy

3. Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata-CONICET, Mar del Plata, Argentina

4. BioacousticsLab, IAMC Capo Granitola, National Research Council, Torretta Granitola, Italy

5. BioacousticsLab, IAMC Capo Granitola, National Research Council, Torretta Granitola, Italy

6. BioacousticsLab, IAMC Capo Granitola, National Research Council, Torretta Granitola, Italy

7. BioacousticsLab, IAMC Capo Granitola, National Research Council, Torretta Granitola, Italy

8. BioacousticsLab, IAMC Capo Granitola, National Research Council, Torretta Granitola, Italy

9. BioacousticsLab, IAMC Capo Granitola, National Research Council, Torretta Granitola, Italy

Correspondence to:
Elena Papale
Email: elena.papale@iamc.cnr.it

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Abstract

An understanding of the population dynamics and social organization of cetaceans is essential to manage the influence of anthropogenic activities. In this study, the population size, site fidelity and social interactions of bottlenose dolphins in the Strait of Sicily (Italy) were investigated to provide recommendations for their conservation. Mark-recapture analysis was based on the encounter histories of 103 marked dolphins from 2004 to 2015. The POPAN formulation of the Jolly–Seber model in MARK software was used to estimate the size of the super-population. Site fidelity and social organization were estimated for individuals re-sighted ≥3 times. The estimated population size was 140 (SE = 15.75; 95% CI = 106–164). Dolphins had low site fidelity, and both adults and sub-adults move outside the study area. Females with calves used the area longer than other individuals. Based on our results, dolphins’ home range likely extended beyond the study area. The mean value of the Half-Weight Association Index was low and the preferred association was by casual acquaintance. However, we found a distinct aggregation of post-parturition females during the final 2 years of the study. Therefore, the pattern of association was apparently a response to an ecological requirement, which was the possibility to breed in high productivity waters. Whether these individuals are part of a larger pelagic population is unknown; however, we can conclude that the management of only coastal waters is insufficient for the conservation of dolphins in the Strait of Sicily.

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