Environmental cycles often influence the presence of animals, creating patterns at different temporal scales, which may mean that their effects overlap and/or interact. Interactions between diel and seasonal cycles have been reported to influence fish behaviour but little is known about such interactions in marine top predators. Here, we studied the combined effect of seasonal, tidal and diel cycles on the occurrence of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) at three coastal sites within a Marine Protected Area in Scotland. Our analyses were based on echolocation detections from passive acoustic devices (CPODs) deployed between 2010 and 2016. We described patterns of dolphins’ occurrence using circular statistics and then used generalised additive mixed models to explore the relative importance of each cycle and any interactions between them. We found site-specific cyclical patterns of presence that remained constant across years. There was a highly significant interaction between seasonal and diel cycles at two sites around deep channels, where occurrence was diurnal in summer but became nocturnal in autumn. The study demonstrates the highly plastic behaviour of bottlenose dolphins and shows a previously unreported behaviour that has management implications for this and other marine protected areas.
Bibliographical notePassive acoustic data were collected under a series of grants and contracts from DECC Offshore Energy Strategic Environmental Assessment Programme, Marine Scotland, Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd., The Crown Estate, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Beatrice Offshore Wind Ltd. We thank Bill Ruck and colleagues from University of Aberdeen and Moray First Marine for fieldwork support. The tidal data was kindly provided by the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office. We would like to thank Dr Enrico Pirotta, Dr Julien Martin and Dr Barbara Cheney for their invaluable comments and ideas during the development of this work. We would also like to acknowledge the University of Aberdeen’s Maxwell computer cluster for assistance with the data processing. OFB was funded by “La Caixa” foundation and their support is gratefully acknowledged.
- BOTTLE-NOSED DOLPHINS
- DIEL VARIATION
- HABITAT PREFERENCES
- HARBOR PORPOISES
- MARINE PROTECTED AREAS
- SEALS PHOCA-VITULINA
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Fine scale spatial variability in the influence of environmental cycles on the occurrence of dolphins at coastal sites