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Site fidelity and association patterns in a deep-water dolphin: Rough-toothed dolphins (Steno bredanensis) in the Hawaiian Archipelago



In the Pacific, rough-toothed dolphins (Steno bredanensis) are typically found in the open ocean and in deep waters around oceanic islands. We examined habitat use, site fidelity, movements, and association patterns of this species in the main Hawaiian Islands. Sighting rates were highest in depths >1,500 m. There were frequent within- and between-year resightings off the island of Hawai'i, indicating a small population size with high site fidelity. Resighting rates were lower off Kaua'i/Ni'ihau, indicating a larger population size, but with some site fidelity. Two individuals were documented moving from Kaua'i to Hawai'i, a distance of 480 km, but were not seen to associate with dolphins off Hawai'i. Observed movements were consistent with at most 2% dispersal per year between these two areas. Differences in group sizes, habitat use, and behavior imply that movements among the islands may be limited. Little is known about the diet of rough-toothed dolphins in Hawai'i, but they are thought to feed primarily on near-surface species. High fidelity to deep-water areas off the island of Hawai'i likely reflects an increase in the predictability of prey associated with upwelling due to the island mass effect, wind stress curl and cyclonic eddies that form off the island.