Biopsy darting of common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in southern Brazil: evaluating effectiveness, short-term responses and wound healing
Keywords:Behavior, crossbows, cetaceans
Cetacean biopsy sampling is a widely used technique with undisputable scientific value. Although it is generally considered as a harmless technique with no apparent long-lasting effects, studies have recommended examining behavioral responses to evaluate potential impacts on individuals, groups and sampled populations. In this study, we evaluated individual behavioral reactions and wound-healing in common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) during a biopsy sampling program carried out in southern Brazil from 2003 to 2012, and
compared sampling effectiveness between dedicated and opportunistic sampling surveys. Two hundred and fiftytwo biopsy attempts were made, resulting in 118 hits (48% of attempts) and 134 samples (52% of attempts) collected successfully. Responses to biopsy sampling were low-level, of short-term duration, and elicited similar reactions on the dolphins, irrespective of shot distance, sex of individuals, dolphins’ group size and pre-behavioral state. Dolphins subjected to multiple biopsy attempts reacted in a similar manner as in previous attempt(s), with no evidence of increasing the intensity of the reaction. Wounds could be monitored in 18 animals and healed over 18 to 35 days. Generally, wounds appeared to be covered by epidermis in about three weeks with no observed signs of skin infection. Our results agree with previous studies suggesting that biopsy sampling does not cause significant disturbance to the behavior of dolphins. At a local level, this study demonstrates that biopsy sampling of bottlenose dolphins in the Patos Lagoon Estuary is more effective, less costly and less intrusive when conducted opportunistically, but that long-term sampling is required to achieve a relatively good sample size from photoidentified individuals in the population.
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