REPRODUCTIVE SEASONALITY OF WESTERN ATLANTIC BOTTLENOSE DOLPHINS OFF NORTH CAROLINA, U.S.A.

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Abstract

We describe reproductive seasonality of bottlenose dolphins in North Carolina (NC), U.S.A., using strandings data from the entire coast of NC and sighting data from Beaufort, NC and by estimating dates of birth of known females. We found a strong peak of neonate strandings in the spring (April-May), and low levels of neonate strandings in the fall and winter. The distribution of neonate strandings was significantly different from a uniform distribution (P < 0.001, K= 3.8). We found a unimodal distribution of 282 sightings of neonates with a diffuse peak in the summer. The temporal distribution of sightings of neonates departed significantly from a uniform distribution (P < 0.001, K= 5.1). Estimated birth dates of neonates from known females occurred in May (n= 6) and June (n= 4), with a single fall birth. These methods shed light on bottlenose reproductive patterns and underscore the value of using information from multiple types of data. Clarification of bottlenose dolphin reproductive patterns, such as the seasonality of birth, may enhance our understanding of the population structure of this species in the mid-Atlantic region.

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