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The Occurrence of Coastal and Oceanic Bottlenose Dolphins Off The Southern Pacific Coast of Costa Rica

Juan Diego
1. 2. 3.

1,2 Pacheco-Polanco ,

Lenin E. 1 and Maria Gabriela Silva

3 Oviedo-Correa ,

David Herra

1 Miranda

Vida Silvestre Golfo Dulce, Rincon de Osa Puntarenas, 60702, Costa Rica Programa de Postgrado en Gestin Integrada de reas Costeras Tropicales, Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR) Cetacean Ecology Lab. The Swire Institute of Marine Science, The University of Hong Kong

Abstract: The bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) is the second most commonly encountered odontocete off the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica, after the coastal pantropical spotted dolphin (Stenella attenuata graffmani). The species occurs beyond the 200 m isobath off Osa Peninsula, with frequent incursions to coastal waters. Bottlenose dolphins are also frequently sighted within inshore habitats of Golfo Dulce. This study examines the spatial distribution pattern of both ecotypes by analyzing the sighting records and relative density of bottlenose dolphins in two sub-areas: off Osa Peninsula (2001 - 2006, n= 238) and Golfo Dulce (2005 - 2011, n= 172). Kernel distribution maps were produced and the spatial distribution pattern quantified by means of the near neighbor index. Based on the external morphology of the animals seen and their off-shore / in-shore occurrence, we conclude that all records off Osa peninsula represent the oceanic ecotype (primarily off-shore sightings), whereas the external morphology and inshore presence of bottlenose dolphins in Golfo Dulce fits the known characteristics of the coastal ecotype. The significantly clumped sightings within the in-shore environments of Golfo Dulce indicates a strong preference of this ecotype to shallow water habitats, particularly rivers drainage in the inner basin of Golfo Dulce. Higher relative density over the shelf break along with a non-random clumped aggregation of bottlenose dolphins off Osa Peninsula provides further evidence that these animals are the oceanic ecotype. This data contributes to baseline conservation management strategies that are currently addressing plans of coastal development. Assessment of the occurrence in areas of potential overlap between the ecotypes is currently in progress.

Materials and Methods Regional (meso) scale T. truncatus Off Osa Peninsula: Surveys (2001 2006) N= 238 Golfo Dulce : Surveys (2005-2011) N= 172 Figure 2a. Oceanic bottlenose dolphins off Osa Peninsula. Note darker coloration pattern and taller-more falcate dorsal fin

GIS + Near Neighbor Index + Kernel Density Estimate


Only records associated with a research effort > 3.97 hours were considered in the analysis

Figure 2b. Coastal bottlenose dolphins in Golfo Dulce. Note marked coloration pattern and broader dorsal fin

Figure 3. Coastal bottlenose dolphins in Figure 1. Bottlenose dolphins Offshore and Coastal Ecotypes Kernel Densities Golfo Dulce. Note marked coloration pattern . Based on the external morphology of the animals seen and their offshore / inshore occurrence, all records off Osa Peninsula represent the oceanic ecotype; primarily offshore sightings within or close to the 200 m isobath as shown in the above map, whereas the external morphology and high density-inshore presence of bottlenose dolphins in the sill and inner basin of Golfo Dulce fits the known characteristics of the coastal ecotype

Definition of Ecotype :a locally adapted population, a race or intraspecific group having distinctive character which results from the selective pressures of the local environment; ecological race
Roger Lincoln, Geoff Boxshall & Paul Clark. 1998.A dictionary of ecology, evolution, and systematics. Cambridge University Press 2nd edition

Habitat structure in terms of resources availability and predator risk have a strong influence on shaping social and behavioral strategies in delphinids (Gowans et al 2008). These factors might equally have a crucial role in defining eco- morphological differences within a species. We hypothesize that the coastal habitat of Golfo Dulce might have even stronger implications beyond the level of ecotypes, with potential localized genetic differentiation, such as that reported by Moller et al (2007). Research efforts on discerning population structure are underway, we expect to couple photo ID survey with genetic sampling in forthcoming sampling seasons

References: Gowans, S.,Wrsig, B. & L. Karczmarski. 2008. The social structure and strategies of delphinids: Predictions based on an ecological framework. Advance in Marine Biology 53: 195-293 Moller, L. M., Wiszniewski, J. , Allen, S.J. and L. B. Beheregaray. 2007. Habitat types promotes rapid and extremely localized genetic differentiation in dolphins. Marine and Fresh Water Research 58: 640-648