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Long-term social structure of a resident community of Atlantic spotted dolphins, Stenella Frontalis, in the Bahamas 1991–2002

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Abstract

Long-term social structure data on small delphinids is lacking for most species except the bottlenose dolphin. This study describes the long-term social structure of one community of Atlantic spotted dolphins, Stenella frontalis, divided into three social clusters. Data from 12 yr were analyzed using SOCPROG 2.3. Coefficients of association (CoA) were calculated using the half-weight index. The overall mean community CoA ranged from 0.09 to 0.12. Temporal analyses and mantel tests revealed significant differences between sex class associations due to high male-male CoA (0.12–0.23) compared to female-female and mixed sex CoA (0.08–0.10). Female associations were strongly influenced by reproductive status, calf care, and social familiarity, but not by age class. Male associations were strongly influenced by age, access to females, and alliance formation. Males showed two levels of alliance formation, long-term first order pairs/trios (CoA 0.70–1.00) and shorter-term second order alliances between two or more first order alliances (CoA 0.45–0.69), and a possible third level during interspecies interactions. Mating strategies, sex, and cluster formation shaped the social structure in this spotted dolphin community. Similar to many bottlenose dolphin studies, long-term affiliations for spotted dolphins were correlated with age, sex, and reproductive status.

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