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Estimating Population Abundance of Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the Coastal Waters of Palm Beach County, Southeastern Florida
Abstract: Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) are frequently observed in the coastal waters of Palm Beach County, Florida. In this study, mark-recapture surveys using photo-identification techniques were used to estimate population abundance of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins in this area for the first time. Surveys were conducted for 11 years, between 2005 and 2016, during which 384 individuals were identified and catalogued from distinctive nicks and notches on their dorsal fins. Each marked individual was documented an average of 2.4 times (range 1 to 19). Low resighting rates and a constant rate of encounter with previously unmarked individuals suggest that the population is open, comprising both residents and transients. The Jolly-Seber method was used to estimate population abundance. Estimates of abundance varied greatly in time with an overall average of 264 individuals and a 95% confidence interval of 162 to 366 (SE = 51.3), indicating a variable population size. As threats in the region continue to rise, such as overfishing, toxic algae blooms, and environmental pollutants, this understudied population may be vulnerable to decline. A better understanding of the population dynamics could facilitate more effective conservation action.
Key Words: abundance, mark-recapture, photo-identification, transients, residents, open population, southeast Florida, bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus
Page Numbers: 19-28
Haria et al. is Open Access: Click here for PDF