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Keywords:

  • humpback dolphin;
  • Sousa chinensis;
  • population structure;
  • association patterns;
  • community;
  • site fidelity

Abstract

This study examined the population of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, Sousa chinensis, inhabiting the Great Sandy Strait Marine Park, Queensland, Australia. A total of 106 dolphins were identified during 228 boat-based surveys, completed between April 2004 and April 2007. Based on the distribution of resighted individuals and the pattern of associations, it was established that this population consists of two largely geographically distinct communities, referred to as the Northern Community (NC) and the Southern Community (SC). The only recorded interaction between the two groups was a single pod composed of one member of the NC and 11 dolphins from the SC. Abundance was estimated for the entire population and by geographical area using open population models. Estimates for the Great Sandy Strait indicate that about 150 dolphins (NGSS= 148.4, SE = 8.3, 95% CI: 132.5–165.2) used this area during the study. The NC and SC total population sizes was estimated to be 76 (NNGSS= 75.80, SE = 3.88, 95% CI = 71–86) and 75 (NSGSS= 74.98, SE = 4.43, 95% CI: 66–83), respectively. Analysis of residence patterns indicates that a majority of the identified dolphins are long-term residents.