P2.38 Habitat Use by Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in waters around Savannah, Georgia USA

Friday, 13 November 2009
Michael Knowles, Savannah State University, Savannah, GA; and T. Cox

Ecology is the science of the relationships between organisms and their environment, and in coastal cities, humans are a part of the marine environment that organisms like dolphins interact with. Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) inhabit temperate and tropical waters throughout the world. In addition, they travel from deep oceans to creek, gulfs, and estuaries. While in an estuary, dolphin populations are more accessible and researchers have an opportunity to observe differences in group behavior in shallow water habitats. The purpose of the research was to determine if the group size of dolphins varies with creek width. We conducted surveys for dolphins between June 17 and July 1, 2009 in Wassaw Sound, GA and surrounding creeks in the Savannah River estuary. Dolphin behavior was classified into the following activity categories: travel, feed, probable-feed, play, rest, social, w/boat, unknown, and other; and tested the relationship of these activities to creek width and salinity. Seventy-two percent of dolphin sightings (119 out of 166 sightings) were observed in creeks less than 500m wide. However, in creeks less than 500m wide, there was no trend in number of sightings. In conclusion, the average group size of dolphins did not vary with creek width. Future research is planned on relationship of dolphin activity to creek width and other environmental variables such as salinity.
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