Insights on the residency status and inter-island movement patterns of pantropical spotted dolphins Stenella attenuata in the Agoa Sanctuary, Eastern Caribbean
The pantropical spotted dolphin (PSD, Stenella attenuata) is the most common cetacean species observed within the Agoa Sanctuary, located in the Lesser Antilles, Eastern Caribbean. These dolphins are easily observable and are the main target of whale-watching activities along the leeward coasts of Guadeloupe and Martinique islands. Because PSD is common within the sanctuary it is considered a resident species, however, no research has been carried out to estimate its population status and movement patterns between islands. Previous unpublished work found the sighting of an individual in Martinique and Guadeloupe, suggesting potential exchange of individuals between these islands. To test this hypothesis a photo-ID survey in 2018 and 2019 was conducted, resulting in 54,298 photographs. With no matches of individuals between islands, our findings do not support regular exchange of PSD individuals between Martinique and Guadeloupe. However, given previous re-sighting data, it is possible that movement of individuals between islands exists but at lower frequencies than expected, which can only be detected through long-term surveys. Additionally, populations from both islands showed relatively high site fidelity. We found that in Guadeloupe the PSD population is homogeneously distributed along the coast. In contrast, in Martinique the PSD population was composed of two resident groups concentrated in one area. Moreover, 70 new individuals were identified in Guadeloupe and 54 in Martinique while POPAN modelling estimated the number of marked individuals in the study area during 2018 and 2019 at 89 in Guadeloupe and 90 in Martinique. This research provides the first insights on the residency and movement patterns of S. attenuata in the Agoa Sanctuary and can inform future efforts in management and conservation.
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