A description of the foraging habitat of a cetacean species is critical for conservation and effective management. We used a fine-scale microhabitat approach to examine patterns in bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) foraging distribution in relation to dissolved oxygen, turbidity, salinity, water depth, water temperature, and distance from shore measurements in a highly turbid estuary on the northern Gulf of Mexico. In general, environmental variation in the Barataria Basin marine environment comprises three primary axes of variability (i.e., factors: temperature and dissolved oxygen, salinity and turbidity, and distance and depth) that represent seasonal, spatial-seasonal, and spatial scales, respectively. Foraging sites were differentiated from nonforaging sites by significant differences among group size, temperature, turbidity, and season. Habitat selection analysis on individual variables indicated that foraging was more frequently observed in waters 4-6 m deep, 200-500 m from shore, and at salinity values of around 20 psu. This fine-scale and multivariate approach represents a useful method of exploring the complexity, gradation, and detail of the relationships between environmental variables and the foraging distribution patterns of bottlenose dolphin.
|Number of pages||8|
|Publication status||Published - 2010|