Presentation Title

Panama bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) whistles indicate less stress during COVID-19 pandemic.

Project Collaborators

Logan Hillger (whistle analysis), Emma Shapera (whistle analysis), Betzi Perez (field work), Maia Austin (Statistics and Methods), Dr. Laura May-Collado (Research Advisor)

Abstract

A sub-population of bottlenose dolphins in the archipelago of Bocas del Toro, Panama is regularly exposed to tour-boat traffic. A recent study characterized their habitat as ‘stressful’ due to the high number of tour-boat interactions with dolphins and the lack of compliance of dolphin-watching regulations. Dolphins increase their whistles in frequency and modulation as an indicator of stress, thus we test the hypothesis that during COVID-19 lockdowns dolphin whistle modulation should decrease. Using passive acoustic monitoring data collected before and during the lockdowns, we extracted whistle modulation by measuring the number of times the slope changes sign in peak frequency contour slope in the program, RAVEN. Our preliminary results indicate that dolphin whistle modulation decreased during the lockdown. Interestingly, boat presence did not vary, what changed was the type of boat traffic which shifted from tour to transport boats. Our findings provide key information on dolphin communication and our results can be translated into mitigation strategies to reduce the impact of tour-boats on Dolphin Bay’s dolphins.

Primary Faculty Mentor Name

Laura May-Collado

Status

Graduate

Student College

College of Arts and Sciences

Program/Major

Accelerated RN-BS-MS

Primary Research Category

Biological Sciences

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Panama bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) whistles indicate less stress during COVID-19 pandemic.

A sub-population of bottlenose dolphins in the archipelago of Bocas del Toro, Panama is regularly exposed to tour-boat traffic. A recent study characterized their habitat as ‘stressful’ due to the high number of tour-boat interactions with dolphins and the lack of compliance of dolphin-watching regulations. Dolphins increase their whistles in frequency and modulation as an indicator of stress, thus we test the hypothesis that during COVID-19 lockdowns dolphin whistle modulation should decrease. Using passive acoustic monitoring data collected before and during the lockdowns, we extracted whistle modulation by measuring the number of times the slope changes sign in peak frequency contour slope in the program, RAVEN. Our preliminary results indicate that dolphin whistle modulation decreased during the lockdown. Interestingly, boat presence did not vary, what changed was the type of boat traffic which shifted from tour to transport boats. Our findings provide key information on dolphin communication and our results can be translated into mitigation strategies to reduce the impact of tour-boats on Dolphin Bay’s dolphins.