Diet of Bottlenose Dolphins Tursiops truncatus in the Northwest Panhandle and Foraging Behavior Near Savannah, Georgia

Bowen, Sabrina Rose (2011) Diet of Bottlenose Dolphins Tursiops truncatus in the Northwest Panhandle and Foraging Behavior Near Savannah, Georgia. Masters Thesis, Savannah State University , 162pp.

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Abstract

The foraging ecology of bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus in the Northwest Florida Panhandle and estuaries in northern Georgia was determined using diet analysis and behavioral surveys. Stomach content analysis was completed on bottlenose dolphins(N = 25) that stranded in the Northwest Florida Panhandle from November 2006 to March 2009. The most abundant prey species were spot Leiostomus xanthurus (20.4%), squid (10.9%), pinfish Lagodon rhombiodes (10.3%), and Atlantic croaker Micropogonias undulatus (8.5%). Dolphins that stranded during months with a red tide Karenia brevis bloom consumed more pinfish, and spot; whereas dolphins that stranded in non-bloom months consumed more squid, Atlantic croaker, and silver perch Bairdiella chrysoura. Differences in diet were also identified for dolphins that stranded inside bays/sound and dolphin that stranded outside of bays along the coast, and male and female dolphins. Surveys were conducted from south of the Savannah River to north of Ossabaw Sound in Georgia where foraging behaviors were classified. Multivariate Generalized Additive Models were used to test correlations of behaviors to dolphin group size, depth, salinity, temperature, creek width, and tide. Sightings with headstands (p = 0.009), hard stops (p = 0.019), chasing (p = 0.004), mudbank whacking (p < 0.001), herding/circling (p = 0.024), and strand feeding (p = 0.006) were correlated with shallow water or small creeks. Sightings with kerplunking (p = 0.031), mudbank whacking (p = 0.001), strand feeding (p = 0.003), and herding/circling (p = 0.026) were significantly correlated with low tide. The results of the Savannah, Georgia study were the first to characterize foraging behaviors in this area and demonstrate how bottlenose dolphins utilize the salt marsh estuary in terms of foraging. Studies like these are important to determine how dolphins forage efficiently and to provide background information on diet and foraging behavior for use in monitoring future impacts to dolphins in the Northwest Florida Panhandle and near Savannah, Georgia.

Item Type: Thesis
Title: Diet of Bottlenose Dolphins Tursiops truncatus in the Northwest Panhandle and Foraging Behavior Near Savannah, Georgia
Personal Creator/Author:
CreatorsEmail
Bowen, Sabrina Rose
Number of Pages: 162
Date: May 2011
Institution: Savannah State University
Subjects: Biology
Conservation
Ecology
Item ID: 9948
Depositing User: Patti M. Marraro
Date Deposited: 22 Aug 2012 13:40
Last Modified: 22 Aug 2012 13:40
URI: http://aquaticcommons.org/id/eprint/9948

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