Common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) social structure and distribution changes following the 2008 Unusual Mortality Event in the Indian River Lagoon, Florida
In animal societies with fission-fusion dynamics, demographic disturbances can influence the social and spatial structure of the population. Within the Indian River Lagoon (IRL), Florida, common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) have experienced recurrent unusual mortality events (UMEs) providing an opportunity to examine postdisturbance population and social cluster restructuring. This study investigates the impact of the potentially nonepizootic 2008 UME on the IRL dolphin population. Photo-identification surveys conducted from August 2006 to May 2010 were stratified into pre- (August 2006–April 2008) and post-UME (September 2008–May 2010) time periods. Social network and spatial (univariate kernel density) analyses were limited to individuals sighted 5+ times per period (pre-UME = 183, post-UME = 134), and indicated a change from 11 to ten social clusters, although individuals did not always reassociate with pre-UME cluster associates. Despite the social and spatial disconnect between IRL proper and Mosquito Lagoon clusters, both network density and core area spatial overlap increased post-UME allowing for increased intercluster interactions. However, intracluster associations increased as well, allowing the population to maintain multiple social clusters within a loosely connected network. This study shows the important role sociality may play in the adaptability of cetaceans to environmental and demographic changes.
Marine Mammal Science
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Brightwell, K., Titcomb, E.M., Mazzoil, M., Gibson, Q. (2020) Common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) social structure and distribution changes following the 2008 Unusual Mortality Event in the Indian River Lagoon, Florida. Marine Mammal Science, 36(4), 1271-1290.