Behavioural Ecology of dolphins

The aim of Behavioural Ecology is to try to understand how an animal’s behavior is adapted to the environment in which it lives, including both the physical environment and the social environment (competitors, predators and parasites). Through natural selection over the generations, organisms will come to be adapted to their environment. The individuals that are selected, naturally, will be those best able to find food and mates, avoid predators, and so on. If the environment changes, then new variants may do best and so natural selection can lead to evolutionary change. 

Within this framework we are carrying on different research projects to improve our knowledge concerning the behavioural ecology of bottlenose dolphins in the North Sardinia

SOCIAL STRUCTURE AND HOME RANGE OF BOTTLENOSE DOLPHINS 

We use social network analysis to improve our understanding on the social structure of the bottlenose dolphin in the North Sardinia. Particularly, we are focused on: i) the assessment of the social organisation of dolphins based on sex and temporal fidelity to the area; ii) the investigation of the presence of distinct social units; iii) the testing of the hypothesis that fish-farm influence social patterns. Than, we use kernel based estimation to measure the home range of the individuals and the potential overlap of core areas between different social units.  

FORAGING TACTICS OF BOTTLENOSE DOLPHINS   

Bottlenose dolphins exhibit great variation in habitats and prey items and showed to be able to perform different foraging tactics. Thus, the understanding of the environmental factors (such as habitat type, seafloor depth and morphology, sea surface temperature, the presence of fishing boat and gear) and social factors (such as individual tactic fidelity, group size and structure) is a fundamental step if we want to improve the ecological knowledge about a population and preserve its habitat.   

FACTORS INFLUENCING DOLPHIN GROUP SIZE

Group size is an important trait of social animals, affecting many aspects of their lives, such as individual stress levels, reproductive and developmental rates, disease susceptibility, and individual and group behavior. This in turn influences individual and collective fitness and is thus crucial to take into account for effective species management (Markham et al. 2015). In light of the current literature, group size shows to be influenced by physical and ecological factors, social factors and anthropogenic factors. Few studies have investigated the influence of these factors simultaneously and to our knowledge the influence of acoustic landscape on group size has not yet been examined. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to investigate the grouping patterns of a small residential population of bottlenose dolphins in relation to these parameters that partially define their habitat. Given the importance of group size on dolphin activities and social organization, it is crucial to determine the factors affecting it for both monitoring and protecting the local population as well as for wider conservation purposes.  

 

 

 

THANKS TO SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

THE FUTURE OF MAN AND NATURE CAN GO TO THE SAME PATH

 

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