Revista de Biología Tropical ISSN Impreso: 0034-7744 ISSN electrónico: 2215-2075

Population size and demographic parameters of pantropical spotted dolphin (Stenella attenuata graffmani) (Cetartiodactyla: Delphinidae) in Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica


Golfo Dulce; Stenella attenuatta graffmani; population size; survival; robust design; Costa Rica; photoidentification.
Golfo Dulce; Stenella attenuatta graffmani; tamaño poblacional; sobrevivencia; diseño robusto; Costa Rica; fotoidentificación.

How to Cite

Oviedo Correa, L., Herra-Miranda, D., & Pacheco-Polanco, J. D. (2023). Population size and demographic parameters of pantropical spotted dolphin (Stenella attenuata graffmani) (Cetartiodactyla: Delphinidae) in Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica. Revista De Biología Tropical, 71(S4), e57287.


Introduction: The coastal form of pantropical spotted dolphins (Stenella attenuata graffmani) is commonly found along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Within Golfo Dulce, a fiord-like-embayment bordering the Osa Peninsula, pantropical spotted dolphins are sympatric with inshore bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and these marine predators provide an important source of revenue for local communities through boat-based tours.

Objective: Here we estimated the population size and demographic parameters of the coastal pantropical spotted dolphins in Golfo Dulce.

Methods: The study area was surveyed using non-random boat surveys. Upon encounter, dolphins were individually photo-identified using natural marks in their dorsal fins to estimate population abundance and survival using three emigration scenarios.

Results: A total of 280 dolphins were photoidentified, 65 % of which were observed only once. A total of 30 models were produced, and only two were considered to be parsimonious. Both models explain seasonal apparent survival and its variation due to heterogeneity in capture-recapture probability, one under no emigration (ΔQAICc = 0.00) and the other under random emigration (ΔQAICc = 1.72). We deemed the latter to be a more realistic model as it better reflects our in-situ observations. Under this preferred model the population size of pantropical spotted dolphins in Golfo Dulce varied from 187.30 individuals (CI: 168.67 – 208.02, CV: 0.11) to 367.88 individuals (CI: 341.51 – 396.31, CV: 0.07), with no significant differences in abundance due to seasonality and very high apparent survival (S = 0.98, CI: 0.68 – 0.99, SE: 0.02).

Conclusions: The number of identified dolphins and the proportion of individuals seen only once suggest the fluid movement of the population in and out of the gulf. However, the population size and demographic estimates are characterized by several identified individuals regularly recaptured inside the gulf. This group of dolphins appears to favor the inner basin as a critical foraging habitat. Given the increase of anthropogenic impacts within Golfo Dulce, future management and conservation efforts will require the recognition of an ecologically discrete population unit of coastal pantropical spotted dolphins within the gulf.


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