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Satellite-Linked Telemetry Study of a Rehabilitated and Released Atlantic Spotted Dolphin in the Bahamas Provides Insights into Broader Ranging Patterns and Conservation Needs
Abstract: Despite dedicated longitudinal studies, lack of information on ranging patterns of “resident” dolphins can limit our ability to apply conservation directives at the appropriate scale. Herein, we present satellite-linked telemetry data on movements over 108 days (1,067 Argos locations) for an adult male Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis) in The Bahamas. This individual (“Lamda”) has been known to researchers in the Bimini area since 2010 and was seen there wild swimming on 7 August 2018. On 26 August 2018, Lamda live-stranded in the Berry Islands, approximately 110 km east of Bimini. Lamda was transported to Dolphin Cay in Nassau on 30 August where he was diagnosed with pneumonia, gastric ulceration, gastritis, myopathy, and dehydration. On 29 October 2018, Lamda was airlifted to the Bimini area, instrumented with a SPOT6 Finmount location-only satellite-linked tag, and released. He travelled rapidly south, covering 410 km in 48 hours, stopping near Cuba, well beyond what was previously considered his normal range. Lamda stayed in this southern area (3,572 km2) for 13 days, but there were no opportunities to document behaviors or potential associations with other dolphins. Over the next 16 days, Lamda traveled back to Bimini; and on 7 January 2019, he was observed in a group with other known Atlantic spotted dolphins. He remained in the Bimini area (1,203 km2) until his tag stopped transmitting on 14 February 2019 and has since been seen 24 times near Bimini, through the end of August 2019. Assuming Lamda’s movements are representative of ranging patterns by non-rehabilitated dolphins, these data provide insights that have important implications for the conservation of this species. Notably, the majority of Lamda’s locations were in the Bimini area where there is pressure from increasing tourism, and his locations in the southern area overlap with existing petroleum licenses where test drilling is scheduled.
Key Words: ranging patterns, telemetry, Atlantic spotted dolphin, Stenella frontalis, rehabilitation, conservation, Bahamas
Page Numbers: 633-639