Habitat partitioning, co-occurrence patterns, and mixed-species group formation in sympatric delphinids

Jonathan Syme, Jeremy J. Kiszka, Guido J. Parra

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Numerous species have been reported to form mixed-species groups, however, little is known about the interplay between niche partitioning and mixed-species group formation. Furthermore, it is often unclear whether species come together by chance due to overlapping habitat preferences, by shared attraction to resources, or by attraction between them. We assessed habitat partitioning, co-occurrence patterns, and mixed-species group formation of sympatric Australian humpback (Sousa sahulensis) and Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) around the North West Cape, Western Australia, with a joint species distribution model and temporal analyses of sighting data. Australian humpback dolphins preferred shallower and more nearshore waters than Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, yet these species co-occurred more often than expected by chance given shared responses to environmental variables. Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins were sighted more often than Australian humpback dolphins during the afternoon, however, we did not find any temporal patterns in the occurrence of mixed-species groups. We propose that the positive association in the species’ occurrence indicates the active formation of mixed-species groups. By evaluating habitat partitioning and co-occurrence patterns, this study provides direction for future work which should proceed to investigate the benefits that these species may gain from grouping with each other.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3599
Number of pages12
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2023


  • Behavioural ecology
  • Community ecology


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