Community structure and cluster definition of Atlantic spotted dolphins, Stenella frontalis, in the Bahamas

Authors

  • Cindy R. Elliser ,

    Corresponding author
    1. The Wild Dolphin Project, Jupiter, Florida 33468, U.S.A. and Clark Advanced Learning Center, Indian River State College, Stuart, Florida 34997, U.S.A.
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  • Denise L. Herzing

    1. The Wild Dolphin Project, Jupiter, Florida 33468, U.S.A. and Department of Biology, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida 33431, U.S.A.
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(e-mail: cindy.elliser@gmail.com).

Abstract

Fission-fusion dynamics typical of many delphinid populations allow for a variety of social grouping patterns. Identifying these groupings is crucial before conducting a detailed social structure analysis. This study analyzed the structure of a population of Bahamian spotted dolphins, Stenella frontalis. Through long-term observations and preliminary analysis, three clusters were defined: Northern, Central, and Southern. To quantitatively investigate these delineations, we conducted analysis on 12 yr of sighting data using SOCPROG 2.3. Coefficients of association (CoA) were calculated using the half-weight index, with individuals sighted six or more times per pooled period (3 yr each). Nonmetric multidimensional scaling (MD), hierarchical agglomerative cluster analysis and Mantel tests were conducted to determine if any divisions were present. Mantel tests and MD plots analysis supported the delineations into the three clusters. Cluster analysis showed cluster groupings, but with less clear distinctions between the clusters. The amount and strength of associations were significantly higher within clusters than between clusters. Based on behavioral and geographic overlap, these clusters did not meet the definition of separate communities and thus were termed social clusters. These fine scale, within community divisions, are biologically and socially important aspects of their community and are crucial in understanding the dolphins’ social structure.

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