Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Abundance, survival and temporary emigration of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops sp.) off Useless Loop in the western gulf of Shark Bay, Western Australia

Krista Nicholson A D , Lars Bejder A , Simon J. Allen A , Michael Krützen B and Kenneth H. Pollock A C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Murdoch University Cetacean Research Unit, Centre for Fish, Fisheries and Aquatic Ecosystems Research, Murdoch University, South Street, Murdoch, WA 6150, Australia.

B Evolutionary Genetics Group, University of Zurich, Winterhurerstr.190, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland.

C North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7617, USA.

D Corresponding author. Email: krista.e.nicholson@gmail.com

Marine and Freshwater Research 63(11) 1059-1068 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF12210
Submitted: 6 August 2012  Accepted: 13 September 2012   Published: 26 November 2012

Abstract

Capture–recapture models were used to provide estimates of abundance, apparent survival and temporary emigration of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops sp.) in a 226-km2 study area off Useless Loop in the western gulf of Shark Bay, Western Australia. Photo-identification data were collected during boat-based surveys in Austral autumn to early spring (April–September) from 2007 to 2011. Abundance estimates varied from 115 (s.e. 5.2, 95% CI 105–126) individuals in 2008 to 208 (s.e. 17.3, 95% CI 177–245) individuals in 2010. The variability in abundance estimates is likely to be a reflection of how individuals used the study area, rather than fluctuations in true population size. The best fitting capture–recapture model suggested a random temporary emigration pattern and, when coupled with relatively high temporary emigration rates (0.33 (s.e. 0.07) – 0.66 (s.e. 0.05)) indicated that the study area did not cover the entire ranges of the photo-identified dolphins. Apparent survival rate is a product of true survival and permanent emigration and was estimated annually at 0.95 (s.e. 0.02). Since permanent emigration from the study area is unlikely, true survival was estimated to be close to 0.95. This study provides a robust baseline for future comparisons of dolphin demographics, which may be of importance should climate change or increasing anthropogenic activity affect this population.

Additional keywords : capture-recapture, demographic parameters, photo-identification, Pollock’s closed robust design.


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