ESR 11:83-89 (2010)  -  doi:10.3354/esr00256

Assessment of epidermal condition and calf size of Fiordland bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus populations using dorsal fin photographs and photogrammetry

Lucy E. Rowe1,3, Rohan J. C. Currey2, Stephen M. Dawson1,*, Dave Johnson2

1Department of Marine Science, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand
2Department of Conservation, Southland Conservancy, PO Box 743, Invercargill, New Zealand
3Present address: Otago Museum, PO Box 6202, Dunedin, New Zealand
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: The bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus population in Doubtful Sound, New Zealand, has declined by over 34% since 1995 and is subject to potential impacts from tourism and habitat modification via freshwater discharge from a hydroelectric power station. The bottlenose dolphin population in neighbouring Dusky Sound is exposed to much lower levels of tourism and the fiord receives only natural freshwater runoff. We used dorsal fin identification photographs from both populations to compare levels of epidermal disease and laser photogrammetry to measure the dorsal fin base length of calves (<1 yr old) to assess differences in calf size and birth seasonality between the populations. Epidermal lesions were common in both populations (affecting >95% of individuals), but lesion extent was 4 times higher in Doubtful Sound. Lesion extent was higher for female dolphins than for males in Doubtful Sound, but not in Dusky Sound. In Dusky Sound calves were larger at first observation and were born over a longer period. The short calving season in Doubtful Sound may be an adaptation to localized temperature conditions. Anthropogenic impacts may contribute to the higher levels of epidermal disease in the Doubtful Sound population. The higher extent of epidermal lesions in females and the smaller size of calves in Doubtful Sound may be a factor in the low survival of calves in the population.


KEY WORDS: Calf size · Epidermal lesions · Doubtful Sound · Dusky Sound · Laser photogrammetry · Tursiops truncatus


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Cite this article as: Rowe LE, Currey RJC, Dawson SM, Johnson D (2010) Assessment of epidermal condition and calf size of Fiordland bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus populations using dorsal fin photographs and photogrammetry. Endang Species Res 11:83-89

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