[MARMAM] New publication on dolphin abundance and survivorship

Todd Speakman Todd.Speakman at noaa.gov
Thu Feb 10 07:27:30 PST 2011

The following article was recently published in the Autumn 2010 issue of the
Journal of Cetacean Research and Management:

Speakman, T.R., S.M. Lane, L.H. Schwacke, P.A. Fair, and E.S. Zolman. 2010. Mark-recapture estimates of
seasonal abundance and survivorship for bottlenose dolphins (/Tursiops truncatus/)
near Charleston, South Carolina, USA. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management

The stock structure of western North Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)
is complex, with seasonally migratory stocks often overlapping with year-round resident
stocks. High rates of exchange between northernmost sites have been documented but movement
and seasonal fluctuation in abundance among sites along the southern portion of the US
Atlantic coast is not well understood. To better understand seasonal abundance, a three-year
mark-recapture study of bottlenose dolphins in coastal and estuarine waters near Charleston,
South Carolina, USA was conducted. A robust design was employed in order to minimise bias and
more precisely determine seasonal estimates of abundance and concurrently examine temporary
immigration/emigration and survivorship. Systematic boat-based surveys were carried out (n = 192)
from January 2004 to December 2006. The entire study area was surveyed one week per month; an
additional survey was conducted in the months in which seasonal abundance was estimated:
January (winter), April (spring), July (summer) and October (autumn). Standard photo-identification
techniques were used to accumulate sightings of 521 distinctively marked dolphins, 65% of which
were sighted more than once. Pollock's robust design was applied using MARK and the ensuing
  abundance estimates were adjusted for the seasonal proportion of unmarked dolphins (ranging
from 0.27 to 0.40) in the population. Estimates ranged from 364 (95% CI = 305--442) in January
2004 to 910 (95% CI = 819--1018) in October 2006. Summer abundance estimates were consistently
greater than those from winter months, although estimates varied considerably among years. The
same model was used to calculate an annual survival rate estimate of 0.951 (95% CI = 0.882--1.00)
for marked individuals within the population. A high degree of transience, demonstrated by seasonal
influxes of single-sighted individuals, made it difficult to differentiate between mortality and
permanent emigration. The results support the occurrence of three distinct dolphin groups found in
Charleston waters: year-round residents; seasonal residents; and transients. Reporting abundance
and survivorship estimates together is useful in explaining and validating results for populations
in which transient individuals occur. These results provide important information for stock and
viability assessment of coastal bottlenose dolphins in the western North Atlantic.


For further information and pdf requests, please contact Todd Speakman:
Todd.Speakman at noaa.gov

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