[MARMAM] New paper - responses of a top predator to human-induced changes in the coastal ecosystem

Bruno Diaz Lopez bruno at thebdri.com
Thu Jan 3 09:23:51 PST 2019

Dear colleagues,

I am pleased to announce my new publication in the journal Behavioral Ecology about the influence of human activities on the social interactions and demographic parameters of bottlenose dolphins.
Diaz Lopez, B. 2018. “Hot deals at sea”: responses of a top predator (Bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus) to human-induced changes in the coastal ecosystem. Behavioral Ecology. doi:10.1093/beheco/ary162

Understanding how the effects of human-induced changes in the ecosystem cause changes in the behaviour of top predators is an ongoing challenge in animal ecology. This study reveals how human activities are related to a significant upward trend in density of dolphins and a reduction of the social interactions associated to a temporal switch to the food sources provided by these activities. These changes can have effects on gene flow and the degree of inbreeding and, hence, the amount of genetic variability and population viability.


The main response of top predators to human-induced environmental changes is often behavioral. Although human activities regularly impose a disturbance on top predators, they can also be a source of reliable and concentrated food resources for species with a high degree of behavioral plasticity. This study represents the first assessment of the influence of these resources on migratory patterns and social interaction of a marine top predator, the common bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus. Pollock’s closed robust design models and association analyses were applied to data collected over 9 consecutive years of research in a coastal area subject to significant use and pressure by humans. Photo-identification data were collected year-round during 955 boat-based surveys, resulting in 1638 common bottlenose dolphin group encounters. Results of this study revealed a significant upward trend in density of bottlenose dolphins, preferences for a coastal area with higher human pressure, and a reduction of the social interactions associated to a temporal switch to the food sources provided by human activities. The observed link between human activities and changes in common bottlenose dolphin behavior aim to contribute to a better understanding of the ecology of a marine top predator and provide some of the needed baseline data, from which effective management and conservation strategies can be designed. 

Please do not hesitate to ask me for any question regarding my study or to request a PDF copy of the article: bruno at thebdri.com 
Bruno Diaz Lopez Ph.D
Chief biologist and Director
The Bottlenose Dolphin Research Institute BDRI
Avenida Beiramar 192, O Grove 36980, Pontevedra, Spain
0034 684248552

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