Royal Society Publishing

Trawling and bottlenose dolphins' social structure

B. Louise Chilvers, Peter J. Corkeron


Human activities can affect the behaviour of mammals through the modification of habitats, changes in predation pressure or alterations in food distribution and availability. We analysed the association and ranging patterns of 242 individually identified bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) in eastern Moreton Bay, Queensland, Australia, and distinguished two separate communities of dolphins. Unlike bottlenose dolphins elsewhere, the communities' core areas overlapped substantially. There was a correlation between the dolphins' responses to fishing activities and community membership—members of one community feed in association with trawlers and members of the other do not. Apart from feeding mode, the communities differed in habitat preference and group sizes. Inadvertent anthropogenic impacts on animals' societies are likely to be far more widespread than just this study and can increase conservation challenges. In this instance, managers need to consider the two communities' differing habitat requirements and their behavioural traditions in conservation planning.