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Resighting and association patterns of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the Cedar Keys, Florida: insights into social organization

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Little is known about the social organization of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) inhabiting open estuarine systems. Our purpose was to identify and quantify the resightings of bottlenose dolphins and associations formed among them to provide insights into the social organization of the species in the open estuarine system of the Cedar Keys, Florida. We conducted monthly photographic-identification surveys from June 1996 through May 1997. We identified a total of 233 dolphins of which 217 (93%) were classified into one of four categories based on the number of months in which they were sighted. "Rare" dolphins (sighted during 1–2 months) constituted more than half of these individuals (61%), followed by "occasional" (3–5 months; 20%), "common" (>8 months; 12%), and "frequent" (5–6 months; 7%) dolphins. We quantified the associations for dolphins sighted 10 times (26 common, 12 frequent, and 8 occasional) and found that individuals with different resighting patterns associate with each other but the association is mostly at a low level. The level of association among common dolphins, however, was higher within than between the sexes. Association patterns of common dolphins in the Cedar Keys resemble the associations of resident bottlenose dolphins inhabiting closed estuarine bays, suggesting that the selective pressures which induce such associations are the same in these aquatic systems.

On connaît peu de choses au sujet de l'organisation sociale des Dauphins a gros nez (Tursiops truncatus) dans les systèmes estuariens ouverts. Nous avons tenté d'identifier et de quantifier les observations de dauphins déjà vus et leurs associations afin de pouvoir mieux comprendre l'organisation sociale de cette espèce dans le système estuarien ouvert des Cedar Keys, en Floride. Nous avons procédé à des inventaires photographiques de dauphins de juin 1996 à mai 1997. Nous avons pu reconnaître au total 233 dauphins dont 217 (93 %) ont été assignés à l'une de quatre catégories en fonction du nombre de mois où ils ont été vus. Les animaux « rares » (aperçus 1–2 mois) constituaient plus de la moitié des individus (61 %), suivis des dauphins « occasionnels » (3–5 mois; 20 %), des dauphins « communs » (>8 mois; 12 %), et « fréquents » (5–6 mois; 7 %). Nous avons quantifié les associations des dauphins aperçus 10 fois (26 communs, 12 fréquents et 8 occasionnels) et constaté que des individus dont les repérages suivent des patterns différents s'associent mais à un degré faible. Le degré d'association de dauphins communs s'est avérée plus forte entre individus de même sexe qu'entre mâles et femelles. Les patterns d'association à Cedar Keys sont comparables à ceux des dauphins qui habitent les systèmes estuariens clos, ce qui indique que les pressions de sélection qui déclenchent de telles associations sont les mêmes dans ces systèmes aquatiques.[Traduit par la Rédaction]

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2001

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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