Monitoring Dolphins in an Urban Marine System: Total and Effective Population Size Estimates of Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins in Moreton Bay, Australia

Ina Ansmann, Janet Lanyon, Jennifer Seddon, Guido Parra

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    21 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australia is an area of high biodiversity and conservation value and home to two sympatric sub-populations of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus). These dolphins live in close proximity to major urban developments. Successful management requires information regarding their abundance. Here, we estimate total and effective population sizes of bottlenose dolphins in Moreton Bay using photo-identification and genetic data collected during boat-based surveys in 2008-2010. Abundance (N) was estimated using open population mark-recapture models based on sighting histories of distinctive individuals. Effective population size (Ne) was estimated using the linkage disequilibrium method based on nuclear genetic data at 20 microsatellite markers in skin samples, and corrected for bias caused by overlapping generations (Nec). A total of 174 sightings of dolphin groups were recorded and 365 different individuals identified. Over the whole of Moreton Bay, a population size N of 554±22.2 (SE) (95% CI: 510-598) was estimated. The southern bay sub-population was small at an estimated N = 193±6.4 (SE) (95% CI: 181-207), while the North sub-population was more numerous, with 446±56 (SE) (95% CI: 336-556) individuals. The small estimated effective population size of the southern sub-population (Nec = 56, 95% CI: 33-128) raises conservation concerns. A power analysis suggested that to reliably detect small (5%) declines in size of this population would require substantial survey effort (>4 years of annual mark-recapture surveys) at the precision levels achieved here. To ensure that ecological as well as genetic diversity within this population of bottlenose dolphins is preserved, we consider that North and South sub-populations should be treated as separate management units. Systematic surveys over smaller areas holding locally-adapted sub-populations are suggested as an alternative method for increasing ability to detect abundance trends.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere65239
    Pages (from-to)e65239
    Number of pages12
    JournalPLoS One
    Volume8
    Issue number6
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2013

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