Linking Dive Behavior to Satellite-Linked Tag Condition for a Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) along Florida’s Northern Gulf of Mexico Coast

Abstract: Satellite-linked telemetry is a valuable method to identify small cetacean movement patterns and dive behavior. Data collection from satellite-linked tracking is less labor intensive than comparable radio tracking studies in which intensive field work is required post-tagging. However, there are few studies that have assessed the effects of satellite-linked transmitter attachment and retention on the tagged individual. Dolphin X08, a 24-y-old, male bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) captured and released along the northern Gulf coast of Florida during a health assessment project, was tagged with a SPLASH satellite-linked transmitter (Wildlife Computers, Redmond, WA, USA) to remotely obtain data on movement patterns and dive behavior. In addition to the satellite-linked transmitter, a VHF radio transmitter was mounted to X08’s dorsal fin to provide short-term movement pattern data and to allow for position acquisition to observe X08 with the satellite-linked transmitter. X08’s satellite-linked tag transmitted location data for 54 days and dive duration data for 35 of those days. X08’s VHF tag transmitted for over 94 days and allowed for complete monitoring of the satellite-linked tag’s life. Dive duration data changed throughout the course of the satellite-linked tag transmissions. These dive data, along with follow-up observations, suggest that as the stability of the satellite-linked tag on the dorsal fin decreased, the number of longer dives increased, possibly to mitigate the amount of time that the satellite-linked tag came into contact with the water surface. This study was the first to identify movement patterns and dive durations of a bottlenose dolphin along the northern Gulf coast of Florida as well as to monitor satellite-linked tag condition throughout the transmission period.

Key Words: satellite-linked telemetry, dive durations, radio telemetry, bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncates

Document Type: Research article

DOI: 10.1578/AM.36.1.2010.1

Page Numbers: 1-8

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