Abstract

AbstractThis study investigates how group size of Indo‐Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) changes temporally, spatially, and/or with predominant behavior at two discreet sites along the Eastern Cape coastline of South Africa: Algoa Bay and the Wild Coast. The mean group size of bottlenose dolphins was large with an average of 52 animals. Significantly larger groups were observed in Algoa Bay ( = 60, range = 1–600) than off the Wild Coast ( = 32.9, range = 1–250). In Algoa Bay, the mean group size increased significantly over the study period, from an average 18 animals in 2008 to 76 animals in 2016. Additionally, the largest average and maximum group sizes ever reported both in South Africa and worldwide, were recorded in Algoa Bay (maximum group size = 600). Neither season nor behavior had a significant effect on mean group size at both sites. Similarly environmental variables such as the depth and substrate type also had no influence on group size. It remains unclear which ecological drivers, such as predation risk and food availability, are leading to the large groups observed in this area, and further research on abundance and distribution of both predators and prey is necessary.

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