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Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) habitat preference in a heterogeneous, urban, coastal environment

Nardi Cribb1*, Cara Miller123 and Laurent Seuront145

Author Affiliations

1 School of Biological Sciences, Flinders University, Box 2100, Adelaide, SA, 2001, Australia

2 Faculty of Science, Technology and the Environment, University of the South Pacific, Laucala campus, Suva, Fiji

3 The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society International, Chippenham, UK

4 South Australian Research and Development Institute, Aquatic Science, West Beach, SA, 5022, Australia

5 Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Laboratoire d’Océanologie et de Géosciences, UMR LOG 8187, Université des Sciences and Technologies de Lille, Station Marine, Wimereux, 62930, France

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Aquatic Biosystems 2013, 9:3  doi:10.1186/2046-9063-9-3

Published: 1 February 2013



Limited information is available regarding the habitat preference of the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) in South Australian estuarine environments. The need to overcome this paucity of information is crucial for management and conservation initiatives. This preliminary study investigates the space-time patterns of habitat preference by the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin in the Port Adelaide River-Barker Inlet estuary, a South Australian, urbanised, coastal environment. More specifically, the study aim was to identify a potential preference between bare sand substrate and seagrass beds, the two habitat types present in this environment, through the resighting frequency of recognisable individual dolphins.


Photo-identification surveys covering the 118 km2 sanctuary area were conducted over 2 survey periods May to August 2006 and from March 2009 to February 2010. Sighting frequency of recognisable individual Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins established a significant preference for the bare sand habitat. More specifically, 72 and 18% of the individuals sighted at least on two occasions were observed in the bare sand and seagrass habitats respectively. This trend was consistently observed at both seasonal and annual scales, suggesting a consistency in the distinct use of these two habitats.


It is anticipated that these results will benefit the further development of management and conservation strategies.

Bottlenose dolphin; Conservation; estuaries; Photo-identification; Management; Habitat type