WCS study documents foraging behavior of bottlenose dolphins that visit local waters each year

They click. They whistle. They love seafood. They are New York’s coastal bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) that return to feed in local waters from spring to fall each year, and a team of scientists led by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) tracks them.

The team deployed underwater listening devices to six locations off Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and New Jersey, to detect where and when the dolphins were feeding. Dolphins produce a series of rapid clicks called “foraging buzzes” that may indicate feeding activity.

They found that feeding was generally highest from late summer through fall, but peaked in different months at different sites. Variables such as water temperature, currents, and sea activity can affect where dolphins feed seasonally. The team published their findings in the journal Advances in Marine Ecology Series.

The purpose of the study is to see how marine mammals use New York’s heavily urbanized waterways. The results of this study and others can be used to inform mitigation measures that can reduce human-wildlife conflict. In the New York Harbor and New Jersey estuary, bottlenose dolphins are exposed to a variety of stressors, including vessel activity and potential impacts associated with future offshore wind development.

The study’s lead author, Sarah Trabue, formerly of Columbia University and now with WCS’s Ocean Giants program, said: “By studying how marine predators, such as bottlenose dolphins, behave in highly urbanized ecosystems, we can better understand how these predators influence and are influenced by their environment, which can be used to guide conservation efforts, mitigation measures and best practice recommendations.”

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Material provided by Wildlife Conservation Society. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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