In January 1989 a Grey seal cow gave birth to a female pup at the Harderwijk Marine Mammal Park. Mother and pup were kept in an outdoor suckling area and the mother had free access to a pool. Constant observation of mother and pup provided comparable information on suckling parameters as in 1988 when the mother and her pup were confined to an outdoor suckling area. In contrast to the 1988 situation the following was found in the present 1989 study: (I) On average the pup vocalized more often before a suckling session. (2) Mother and pup spent less time together. (3) The mother rested less and spent a great deal of time swimming. (4) On average the suckling sessions were shorter, but the frequency ofsuckling was similar. This resulted in a shorter total daily suckling time. (5) The pup did not start to move around in the suck ling hollow during·the last 3 days before weaning. (6) The pup grew faster (2.2 kg/day) than in 1988. These differences were probably caused by the different weather conditions (the suckling period of 1988 was very wet, that of 1989 was completely dry), and by the different degrees of freedom of the mother.
Two morphological forms of the bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus, are recognised in Indo-Pacific waters; a coastal form referred to as T. cf. aduncus and an offshore form, T. truncatus. The two are distinguished primarily on the basis of ventral spotting, present in adult T. cf. aduncus and absent in T. truncatus. We compared the morphology of specimens obtained from parts of their range where both forms are found; south-east Africa, the East and South China Seas and eastern Australia. Across its range, T. cf. aduncus has a shorter body and skull length and on average more teeth than T. truncatus from the same areas. No difference in body length was noted between sexes in T. cf. aduncus while male T. truncatus are larger than females. T. cf. aduncus from tropical waters are distinctly smaller than in subtropical / temperate regions. Differences in the pattern of the dorsal cape between forms from eastern Australia enabled their geographic distribution to be investigated. T. cf. aduncus was found in estuarine and near-coastal oceanic waters and T. truncatus in near-coastal oceanic and offshore waters. Differences in morphology, and likely niche separation in this partially sympatric distribution of the two forms suggests two species, but there are arguments both for and against the assignment of species status to each morphotype.
The dugong (Dugong dugon) is a vulnerable marine mammal with large populations living in urban Queensland waters. A mark-recapture program for wild dugongs has been ongoing in southern
Queensland since 2001. This program has involved capture and in-water sampling of more than 700 dugongs where animals have been held at the water surface for 5 min to be gene-tagged, measured, and biopsied. In 2008, this program expanded to examine more comprehensively body condition, reproductive status, and the health of wild dugongs in Moreton Bay. Using Sea World’s research vessel, captured dugongs were lifted onto a boat and sampled out-of-water to obtain accurate body weights and morphometrics, collect blood and urine samples for baseline health parameters and hormone profiles, and ultrasound females for pregnancy status. In all, 30 dugongs, including two pregnant females, were sampled over 10 d and restrained on deck for up to 55 min each while biological
data were collected. Each of the dugongs had their basic temperature-heart rate-respiration (THR) monitored throughout their period of handling,
following protocols developed for the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus). This paper reports on the physiological response of captured dugongs during this out-of-water operation as indicated by their vital signs and the suitability of the manatee monitoring protocols to this related sirenian species. A recommendation is made that the range of vital signs of these wild dugongs be used as benchmark criteria of normal parameters for other studies that intend to sample dugongs out-of-water.
Kealakekua Bay is an important resting site for Hawaiian spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris) and is popular with both local residents and tourists. Human activities occurring here include swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, and motor-boating. The objectives of this study were to document movement patterns of dolphin groups in Kealakekua Bay, to determine if different types and levels of human activity within the bay result in quantifiable changes in dolphin group movement patterns, and to provide baseline data for future studies. Theodolite tracking was used to assess responses of dolphin groups to human traffic. Variables examined included group mean leg speed (leg speed: the distance between two consecutive theodolite fixes of a dolphin group divided by time; mean leg speed: the average of all leg speeds comprising a track) and group reorientation rate. Swimmers and/or vessels were present within 100 m of all dolphin groups tracked during all surveys. Regression analyses were used to examine potential relationships between dolphin group related variables (e.g., reorientation rate, mean leg speed) and variables related to human activities (e.g., swimming, kayaking, motor-boating). Increasing levels of human activity had a limited but measurable effect on the movement patterns of Hawaiian spinner dolphin groups at this site.
We developed a method to rapidly and safely live capture wild dugongs based on the “rodeo method” employed to catch marine turtles. This method entails close pursuit of a dugong by boat until it is fatigued. The dugong is then caught around the peduncle region by a catcher leaping off the boat, and the dugong is restrained at the water surface by several people while data are collected. Our sampling protocol involves a short restraint time, typically < 5 min. No ropes or nets were attached to the dugong to avoid the risk of entanglement and subsequent drowning. This method is suitable for shallow, open-water captures when weather and water conditions are fair, and may be adapted for deeper waters.
Sexing wild marine mammals that show little to no sexual dimorphism is challenging. For sirenians
that are difficult to catch or approach closely, molecular sexing from tissue biopsies offers an
alternative method to visual discrimination. This paper reports the results of a field study to validate
the use of two sexing methods: (1) visual discrimination of sex vs (2) molecular sexing based on a
multiplex PCR assay which amplifies the male specific SRY gene and differentiates ZFX and
ZFY gametologues. Skin samples from 628 dugongs (Dugong dugon) and 100 Florida manatees
(Trichechus manatus latirostris) were analysed and assigned as male or female based on molecular
sex. These individuals were also assigned a sex based on either direct observation of the genitalia
and/or the association of the individual with a calf Individuals of both species showed 93 to 96% congruence between visual and molecular sexing. For the remaining 4 to 7%, the discrepancies could be
explained by human error. To mitigate this error rate, we recommend using both of these robust
techniques, with routine inclusion of sex primers into microsatellite panels employed for identity,
along with trained field observers and stringent sample handling.
Unmasked behavioral audiograms of two California sea lions (Zalophus californianus), an adult female (F01) and a subadult male (M02), were recorded using narrow-band frequency-modulated hearing test signals. Signals had a duration of 1 s and center frequencies ranging from 0.031 to 80 kHz. Hearing thresholds were measured by varying test signal amplitude according to the up-down staircase method. The resulting underwater audiograms (50% detection thresholds) of the two sea lions were similar and showed the typical mammalian U-shape. Maximum hearing sensitivity (58 and 57 dB re 1 mPa) occurred at 11.3 kHz for F01 and at 8 kHz for M02, respectively. The range of best hearing (defined as < 10 dB from the maximum sensitivity) was from 1 to 16 kHz (four octaves). The detection thresholds for hearing test signal frequencies 0.031, 0.040, and 0.050 kHz were lower than expected, possibly caused by a shift in perceptional modality from auditory to vibrotactile, or due to the difficulty in measuring accurate SPLs of such low frequencies in a pool. Measurements of particle motion deemed detection of these very low frequencies via the vibrissae unlikely. The present study extends the frequency range for which the hearing of California sea lions has been tested. Based on the two audiograms of the present study and audiograms reported by Reichmuth et al. (2013) and Cunningham & Reichmuth (2016), a revised generic audiogram for California sea lions is proposed.
To determine the frequency-dependent susceptibility of California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) to noise-induced temporary hearing threshold shift (TTS), one of two subjects were exposed for 60 minutes to two continuous one-sixth-octave noise bands (NBs) as fatiguing sounds: one centered at 0.6 kHz, at sound pressure levels (SPLs) of 168 to 174 dB re 1 µPa (sound exposure levels [SELs] of 204 to 210 dB re 1 µPa2s), or one centered at 1 kHz, at SPLs of 144 to 159 dB re 1 µPa (SELs of 180 to 195 dB re 1 µPa2s). Using a psychoacoustic technique, TTSs were quantified at 0.6, 0.85, 1, 1.2, 1.4, and 2 kHz (at the center frequency of each NB, half an octave higher, and one octave higher). When significant TTS occurred, higher SELs resulted in greater TTSs. In the sea lion that was tested 1 to 4 minutes after exposure to the fatiguing sounds, the largest TTSs occurred when the hearing test frequency was half an octave higher than the center frequency of the two fatiguing sounds. The highest TTS levels elicited were 8.7 dB at 0.85 kHz and 9.6 dB at 1.4 kHz. When their hearing was tested at the same time after the fatiguing sounds stopped, initial TTSs and hearing recovery patterns were similar in both sea lions. These findings will contribute to the protection of hearing of species in the Otariidae family from anthropogenic noise by facilitating the development of an evidence-based underwater sound weighting function.
To determine the frequency-dependent susceptibility of California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) to noise-induced temporary hearing threshold shift (TTS), two subjects were exposed for 60 min to two fatiguing sounds: continuous one-sixth-octave noise bands (NBs) centered at 8 kHz (at sound exposure levels [SELs] of 166 to 190 dB re 1 µPa2s) and at 16 kHz (at SELs of 183 to 207 dB re 1 µPa2s). Using a psychoacoustic technique, TTSs were quantified at 8, 11.3, 16, 22.4, and 32 kHz (at the center frequency of each NB, half an octave higher, and one octave higher). For both NBs, higher SELs resulted in greater TTSs. In the SEL ranges that were tested, the largest TTSs occurred when the hearing test frequency was half an octave higher than the frequency of the fatiguing sound. When their hearing was tested at the same time after the fatiguing sounds stopped, initial TTSs and hearing recovery patterns were similar in both sea lions. The effect of fatiguing sound duty cycle on TTS was investigated with the 8 kHz NB, using 1,600 ms signals at a mean sound pressure level (SPL) of 154 dB re 1 µPa. Duty cycle reduction from 100 to 90% resulted in a large decrease in TTS; no TTS was observed at duty cycles ≤ 30%. The equal-energy hypothesis was tested with the 8 kHz NB and found to hold true: five combinations of SPL and exposure duration all resulting in a 182 dB SEL produced similar initial TTSs in both sea lions. These findings will contribute to the protection of otariid hearing from anthropogenic noise by facilitating the development of evidence-based underwater sound weighting functions. Our results also show that the introduction of short inter-pulse intervals to underwater sounds aids in the protection of otariid hearing by allowing recovery to take place.