Factors related to seasonal migration and distribution of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) along South Carolina and Georgia coasts
Taylor, Anna Rebecca
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Little is known about factors related to bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) seasonal migration and distribution along the southeastern Atlantic coast. Migratory dolphins often overlap with resident dolphins, making it difficult to obtain accurate abundance estimates. Habitat selection studies are lacking for southeastern dolphins, causing critical habitat to remain undefined. Therefore, it is important to understand environmental factors that may be related to migratory pulses and habitat selection to obtain accurate resident abundances and to identify important habitat. I used Robust Design and closed population capture-recapture models to estimate seasonal abundance and temporary emigration with water quality variables and Poisson point process models to determine if depth affected dolphin distribution. Results indicated a seasonal abundance and emigration pattern, with water temperature and salinity best explaining the seasonal patterns. Results also indicated depth had a significant effect on dolphin distribution for each season.