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Behavioural and temporal partitioning of dolphin social groups in the northern Adriatic Sea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tilen Genov, Tina Centrih, Polona Kotnjek, Ana Hace

School/Research organisations


Complex social structure is a prominent feature in several mammal species. Such structure may lead to behavioural diversity not only among populations, but also within a single population, where different subsets of a population may exhibit different types of behaviour. As a consequence, understanding social structure is not only interesting biologically, but may also help conservation and management efforts, because not all segments of a population necessarily respond to or interact with human activities in the same way, or at the same time. In this study, we examined the social structure of common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the Gulf of Trieste and adjacent waters (northern Adriatic Sea), based on a 9-year dataset, using social network metrics and association indices. We assessed whether different segments of the population show differences in behaviour and interactions with fisheries. Dolphin social network was structured into distinct social clusters of mixed sexes. We found no evidence of male alliances. The two largest social clusters overlapped spatially, but not temporally, as they used the same area at different times of day. Such diel temporal partitioning does not appear to have been documented in cetaceans previously. The two clusters also differed in ways they interact with fisheries, as one regularly interacted with trawlers, while the other did not. This study demonstrates how different segments of animal populations can interact differently with human activities and in turn respond differently to anthropogenic impacts.


Original languageEnglish
Article number166
Number of pages11
JournalMarine Biology
Issue number1
Early online date18 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019

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