Testing and deployment of C-VISS (cetacean-borne video camera and integrated sensor system) on wild dolphins
Multi-sensor biologgers are a powerful method for studying individual behaviors of free-ranging species, yet the challenges of attaching non-invasive biologgers to agile, fast-moving marine species have prohibited application of this technique to small (<5 m) cetaceans. Integration of video cameras into such biologgers is critical to understanding behavior from the animal’s perspective; however, this technique has not been applied to small cetaceans. We examined the feasibility of remotely deploying a cetacean-borne video camera and integrated sensor system (“C-VISS”) on small cetaceans. We deployed C-VISS on eight free-swimming dusky dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) off New Zealand (42°25′15″S 173°40′23″E) from December 2015 to January 2016, collecting a total of 535 min of video footage (average = 66.8 ± 91.10 SD, range 9–284). Dolphins were observed to show limited reactions to biologger attachment attempts and deployments. Social and environmental parameters derived from video footage include conspecific body condition, mother-calf spatial positioning, affiliative behavior, sexual behavior, sociability, prey, and habitat type. The ability to record behavioral states and fine-scale events from the individual’s perspective will yield new insights into the behavior, socioecology, conservation, rehabilitation, and welfare of small cetaceans.