Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 63, Issue 10, pp 1437–1446 | Cite as

Influences on dusky dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) fission-fusion dynamics in Admiralty Bay, New Zealand

  • Heidi C. Pearson
Original Paper


In societies characterized by a high degree of fission-fusion dynamics, individuals adjust their grouping patterns according to the shifting balance of costs and benefits associated with grouping. This study examines influences on fission-fusion dynamics for dusky dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) in Admiralty Bay, New Zealand. This area is an important foraging habitat for dusky dolphins during the winter and spring. Admiralty Bay has little predation risk, but nearshore mussel farms may infringe on available habitat. I used generalized estimating equations to determine the influences of coordinated foraging, predation risk, and presence of mussel farms on party size, rate of fission-fusion, and behavioral state. I conducted 168 boat-based group focal follows totaling 168 h. The proportion of individuals observed foraging was positively related to party size and rate of party fusion. Resting had no effect on party size and did not vary according to location. Near mussel farms, traveling decreased, and rate of party fission decreased. I conclude that (1) coordinated foraging strategies are a primary influence on fission-fusion dynamics within this population, (2) dolphins may respond to decreased predation risk by not adjusting party size or location during resting, and (3) areas near mussel farms are not used for traveling.


Dusky dolphin Lagenorhynchus obscurus New Zealand Fission-fusion Behavior 



I thank B. Würsig for guidance and support while writing this manuscript and throughout the duration of this project; R. Davis, R. Vaughn, D. Watts, and two anonymous reviewers for providing helpful comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript; C. Pearson, R. Vaughn, L. Wilson, S. Deutsch, M. Srinivasan, H. Amin, S. Tirapelle, J. Weir, N. Duprey, and the Earthwatch volunteers for field assistance; D. and L. Boulton, R. and V. McDonald, B. Lloyd, P. Fisher, L. Boren, and N. Newton for accommodation and logistical support in French Pass; and M. Rahman, C. Radecki Breitkopf, and K. Lennox for statistical assistance. This was part of a larger set of studies headed by B. Würsig and funded by the Earthwatch Institute, National Geographic Society, New Zealand Department of Conservation (NZDOC), Marlborough District Council, and Department of Marine Biology at Texas A&M University at Galveston (TAMUG). Funding was also provided by the Office of Research and Graduate Studies at TAMUG, the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences at Texas A&M University (TAMU), and the Tom Slick Graduate Student Fellowship from TAMU. This study was conducted under special permit from NZDOC. Portions of this manuscript were presented at the 17th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, Cape Town, South Africa, November 29 to December 3, 2007. Data collection complies with the current laws of the country in which it was performed.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Wildlife and Fisheries SciencesTexas A&M UniversityGalvestonUSA

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