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Keywords:

  • bottlenose dolphin;
  • Tursiops;
  • ecology;
  • behavior;
  • social organization

Abstract

The authors review the literature on bottlenose dolphin ecology, behavior and social organization, focusing on data collected on free-ranging animals. Most bottlenose dolphins studied to date have had definable home ranges, and behavioral, morphological and biochemical information indicates discrete stocks in some areas. Bottlenose dolphins appear to form relatively permanent social groups based on sex and age. Mother—calf bonds are long-lasting. Movement patterns are extremely variable from location to location but are relatively predictable at any given site. Food resources are one of the most important factors affecting movements. Bottlenose dolphin behavior is very flexible, and these dolphins are generally active day and night. Feeding peaks in the morning and afternoon have been observed at several sites. Social behavior is an important component of daily activities. Sharks are the most significant predator on bottlenose dolphins in most areas, but captive and wild studies show that dolphins and sharks frequently live in harmony as well. Human activities may be helpful, harmful or neutral to bottlenose dolphins, but interactions with humans are frequent for these coastal cetaceans.