Document Type

Thesis

Degree

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Biology

First Advisor's Name

Michael Heithaus

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Deron Burkepile

Third Advisor's Name

Maureen Donnelly

Keywords

Dolphin, Everglades, CERP, Habitat use, Social structure, Grouping behavior, Abundance, Estuary

Date of Defense

11-9-2012

Abstract

Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) are large-bodied predators that are locally abundant in the coastal Everglades. Because of their potential to exert strong top-down effects on their communities, it is important to understand how spatiotemporal variation in biotic and abiotic factors affects the abundance and behavior of dolphins. This study combined two years of transect surveys with photographic identification methods to assess spatiotemporal variation in the abundance and group sizes of bottlenose dolphins across four large regions of the coastal Everglades including the Shark and Harney Rivers, Whitewater Bay, and coastal oceans of the Gulf of Mexico and Florida Bay. Dolphin abundance was similar across wet and dry seasons, except in river habitats where abundances were higher during the dry season. Group sizes were largest in Florida Bay and open water. Dolphins may be relatively resilient to abiotic changes in the coastal Everglades, with the possible exception of river habitats.

Identifier

FI12113006

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