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Keywords:

  • bottlenose dolphin;
  • computational fluid dynamics;
  • telemetry;
  • Tursiops truncatus

Abstract

Electronic tags have proven to be valuable tools in assessing small cetacean movement and behavior. However, problems associated with tag size and attachment have limited duration and damaged dorsal fins. These outcomes have motivated researchers to develop a new satellite-linked tag design that reduces detrimental effects to tagged animals, while increasing transmission durations. The goals of this study were to review previous studies that deployed single-pin transmitters and determine factors that influence transmission duration. Then, test these factors utilizing computational fluid dynamics (CFD) models to identify an optimal single-pin satellite-linked tag design, and evaluate this prototype through field studies. A review of four projects, which deployed 77 single-pin radio tags, determined that tags attached along the lower third of the dorsal fin and approximately 33 mm from the trailing edge resulted in longer transmission durations and reduced negative impacts to the dorsal fin. Based upon these results and CFD modeling, prototype, single-pin satellite-linked tags (n = 25) transmitted for 163 ± 22 d (mean ± 95% CI) which greatly exceeded transmissions for previous small cetacean telemetry studies. These results suggest that the newly developed single-pin satellite-linked tag design strikes a balance between reducing impacts to the individual while maximizing transmissions.