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Influence of seasonal forcing on habitat use by bottlenose dolphinsTursiops truncatus in the Northern Adriatic Sea

Abstract

Bottlenose dolphins are the only cetaceans regularly observed in the northern Adriatic Sea, but they survive at low densities and are exposed to significant threats. This study investigates some of the factors that influence habitat use by the animals in a largely homogeneous environment by combining dolphin data with hydrological and physiographical variables sampled from oceanographic ships. Surveys were conducted year-round between 2003 and 2006, totalling 3,397 km of effort. Habitat modelling based on a binary stepwise logistic regression analysis predicted between 81% and 93% of the cells where animals were present. Seven environmental covariates were important predictors: oxygen saturation, water temperature, density anomaly, gradient of density anomaly, turbidity, distance from the nearest coast and bottom depth. The model selected consistent predictors in spring and summer. However, the relationship (inverse or direct) between each predictor and dolphin presence varied among seasons, and different predictors were selected in fall. This suggests that dolphin distribution changed depending on seasonal forcing. As the study area is relatively uniform in terms of bottom topography, habitat use by the animals seems to depend on complex interactions among hydrological variables, caused primarily by seasonal change and likely to determine shifts in prey distribution.

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Correspondence to Giovanni Bearzi.

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Bearzi, G., Azzellino, A., Politi, E. et al. Influence of seasonal forcing on habitat use by bottlenose dolphinsTursiops truncatus in the Northern Adriatic Sea. Ocean Sci. J. 43, 175 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03029922

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03029922

Key words

  • common bottlenose dolphin
  • Tursiops truncatus
  • habitat use
  • Adriatic Sea
  • Mediterranean Sea