Spotted Dolphins and a Visiting Scientist.
I came to visit the Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation (BMMRO) in July of 2008 to collect data for my Master's thesis
on the distribution and movements of Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) in the northern Bahamas. I am correlating data
from two separate, long-term projects that cover study sites 160km apart on opposite ends of Little Bahama Bank (LBB).
Since 1985, the Wild Dolphin Project (www.wilddolphinproject.org) has studied Atlantic spotted dolphins on the northwest edge of LBB, approximately 30km north of Grand
Bahama Island, and the BMMRO has studied Atlantic spotted dolphins inhabiting waters to the east and south of Great Abaco Island since 1991.
The main objective of my study is to identify individuals traveling between the two sites and examine the implications of those movements.
My first step is to ensure that the photo-identification catalogs and information on these populations is up to date, and then to use photo-ID
to find matches between the two study populations. I'll look at similarities and differences between these populations as a whole, and examine
basic population parameters such as group size and sex ratio, as well as patterns of site-fidelity (residency based on re-sightings), natal philopatry
(continued residence in the natal home range past the age of independence from parents), and sex-biased dispersal. Additionally, the long-term data
that has been collected for these animals will allow me to examine and look for patterns in the life history characteristics, familial relationships,
and associations of those individuals that are traveling: are you more likely to be seen traveling between both areas if you are male or female? An adult
or a juvenile? Have a parent, sibling or close associate that also travels between sites? It is my hope to also provide a conceptual framework for future
genetic analysis, so that we may determine how these movements are influencing gene flow.
Florida Atlantic University
Department of Biology