International Journal of Comparative Psychology
Common bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus, seasonal habitat use and associations with habitat characteristics in Roanoke Sound, North Carolina
- Author(s): McBride-Kebert, Shauna
- Taylor, Jessica S.
- Wilkinson, Krystan A.
- Lyn, Heidi
- Moore, Frank R.
- Sacco, Donald F.
- Kar, Bandana
- Kuczaj II, Stan A.
- et al.
Understanding how habitat characteristics influence common bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus, distribution and behavior can be useful for conservation. The dolphin community in Roanoke Sound, North Carolina primarily exhibits seasonal residency and there is limited information on their habitat use. The objectives of this study were to increase habitat use knowledge and determine the relationship between habitat characteristics and dolphin distribution using standardized photographic-identification data (2009 – 2017). A hot spot (Getis-Ord Gi*) analysis showed dolphins frequently use the southern region containing the mouth of the estuary for feeding and traveling. Habitat characteristics were modeled with zero-altered gamma (ZAG), generalized linear (GLM), and generalized additive (GAM) models to predict dolphin group density. Models showed that groups were more likely to be present in areas with greater benthic slope variation and shallow areas closer to land, and that different habitat characteristics were associated with feed, social, and travel activities. This study suggests that Roanoke Sound provides a seasonal foraging area and travel corridor between the estuaries and coastal waters. This information contributes baseline knowledge of how habitat potentially influences dolphin distribution and behavior which can be useful for management and conservation, especially in areas where habitat changes and impacts need to be assessed.