Anthropogenic injuries disrupt social associations of common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Sarasota Bay, Florida

Michelle R. Greenfield, Katherine A. McHugh, Randall S. Wells, Daniel I. Rubenstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Social connectivity is important for measuring the fitness of common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). While interactions in fission-fusion societies vary between individuals, studies show that repeated interactions enhance reproduction and foraging success. Injuries that potentially remove an individual from its association network may disrupt these interactions. Using data from the long-term resident dolphin community in Sarasota Bay, Florida, we investigated how anthropogenic injuries affect the dolphins' social associations by examining the differences before and after injury to individuals. We examined group size, strength, eigenvector centrality, clustering coefficient, and number of triangles and analyzed whether the animal's sex, age class, type of injury, or human intervention affected these values. We found that while group size did not change, injured dolphins had fewer preferred associates (HWI > 0.14) and were found in more fluid groups immediately after injury, but started returning to normal association levels after 2 years. This initial decrease in connectivity was not related to the age, sex, type of injury, or intervention. Despite the fluidity in individual associations, the strongest bonds remained stable, those between mothers and calves and those between male alliance partners. These findings provide some of the first information relating injuries and social networks for animals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-44
Number of pages16
JournalMarine Mammal Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science


  • Tursiops
  • anthropogenic impact
  • association
  • bottlenose dolphin
  • human intervention
  • injury
  • social network


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