Spatiotemporal use predicts social partitioning of bottlenose dolphins with strong home range overlap

Rodrigo C. Genoves, Pedro F. Fruet, Juliana C. Di Tullio, Luciana M. Möller, Eduardo R. Secchi

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14 Citations (Scopus)
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Ranging behaviour and temporal patterns of individuals are known to be fundamental sources of variation in social networks. Spatiotemporal dynamics can both provide and inhibit opportunities for individuals to associate, and should therefore be considered in social analysis. This study investigated the social structure of a Lahille's bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus gephyreus) population, which shows different spatiotemporal patterns of use and gregariousness between individuals. For this, we constructed an initial social network using association indices corrected for gregariousness and then uncovered affiliations from this social network using generalized affiliation indices. The association-based social network strongly supported that this dolphin population consists of four social units highly correlated to spatiotemporal use patterns. Excluding the effects of gregariousness and spatiotemporal patterns, the affiliation-based social network suggested an additional two social units. Although the affiliation-based social units shared a large part of their core areas, space and/or time use by individuals of the different units were generally distinct. Four of the units were strongly associated with both estuarine and shallow coastal areas, while the other two units were restricted to shallow coastal waters to the south (SC) and north of the estuary (NC), respectively. Interactions between individuals of different social units also occurred, but dolphins from the NC were relatively more isolated and mainly connected to SC dolphins. From a conservation management perspective, it is recommended that information about the dolphin social units should be incorporated in modeling intrapopulation dynamics and viability, as well as for investigating patterns of gene flow among them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12597-12614
Number of pages18
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018

Bibliographical note

© 2018 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


  • affiliation
  • gregariousness
  • social division
  • social group
  • spatial distribution
  • spatiotemporal dynamics


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