RESEARCH - BEHAVIOURAL ECOLOGY OF DOLPHINS
Much of the research work is based upon repeat observations of individually-recognisable dolphins, providing data for a range of long-term and ongoing studies on the abundance, site fidelity, home range, social structure and behaviour of this population. The study of dolphins social structures defines an important class of ecological relationships between individuals and their nearby conspecifics.
Common bottlenose dolphins live in fission–fusion societies within which individuals
associate in small groups that change in composition, often
on a daily or hourly basis. Fission–fusion societies limit the effect of within-unit competition through unit splits during periods of high competition,
and they enhance cooperative effects through unit cohesion when the ecological costs of aggregating are low or benefits of sociality are high.
Human activities can influence the distribution of food resources, which may promote the evolution of social organizations as a response to fluctuations in the costs of feeding competition. Therefore, fission–fusion societies present a good opportunity to examine the costs and benefits of association in dolphin populations affected by human use of coastal waters, especially by fisheries activities and habitat modification.
Individual-based studies focusing explicitly the variability of social unit structure in relation to anthropogenic factors are few. In this project, BDRI researchers will study the patterns of association of different populations of bottlenose dolphins (in Italy and Spain) and will describe the way in which their association behaviour is related to the way they respond to food patches created by human activites.
This research is conducted under a Research Permit issued by the Department of Environment of the Galician Goverment as part of our cooperation with the CEMMA (national networking for the study of marine mammals). Each year the Institute reports to CEMMA detailing the data collected and results obtained under the permit, prior to having a new permit issued.
To view some of our recently published research work visit the links bellow:
For more information about BDRI's research and conservation work, please visit our Facebook page.