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Abstract: Several studies have examined diurnal consumption patterns and energy requirements of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), yet little is known about how these values change with respect to reproductive status and small-scale changes in water temperature. This study describes a comparative assessment of the caloric intake of three populations of resident Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, all housed in ambient seawater facilities, with respect to sex, reproductive state, and water temperature. Weekly caloric intake, based on catch-specific caloric values of each dietary component, was calculated for five adult males and eight adult females with repeated measurements on animals in the following reproductive states over the course of 12 to 24 months: males (n = 5), pregnant/lactating (n = 2), pregnant/non-lactating (n = 7), non-pregnant/lactating (n = 6), and non-pregnant/non-lactating (n = 7) . Although food was provisioned, rate and magnitude of provisioning was driven by appetitive responses exhibited by each individual dolphin. Males exhibited a significantly higher caloric load than non-pregnant/non-lactating females. Among females, lactating females (pregnant and non-pregnant) exhibited significantly higher consumption values when compared to females in all other reproductive states, highlighting the energetic cost of lactation. Additionally, there was an inverse relationship between mean monthly caloric intake and mean monthly water temperature, capturing the influence of temperature on the energetic demands of small odontocetes. These data can be utilized to estimate the carrying capacity of wild habitats, to improve management, and to serve as a baseline for the strategic development of provisioning protocols in managed care.
Key Words: caloric consumption, energetics, metabolic demands, reproductive state, temperature, pregnant, lactating, bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncates
Page Numbers: 382-394