The influence of cooperative foraging with fishermen on the dynamics of a bottlenose dolphin population
Recent years have seen an increasing interest in individual behavioral variation. However, the implications of such variation for population dynamics are often unknown. We studied the dynamics of a bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus gephyreus) population from southern Brazil, where some individuals forage cooperatively with artisanal fishermen. We fitted mark‐recapture models to 10 yr of photo‐identification data to investigate the influence of this foraging specialization on dolphins’ population parameters, controlling for sex and ranging behavior. We estimated adult survival to be high (0.949 ± 0.015 SE), weakly influenced by home range size, sex or the frequency of interaction with fishermen. The slightly higher survival probability for individuals with smaller home ranges could stem from the benefits of reduced spatial requirements implied by the specialized foraging. Foraging also influenced the probability of resighting individuals, and there was no temporary or permanent emigration. Abundance fluctuated slightly over the years from 54 (95% CI = 49–59) to 60 (95% CI = 52–69) individuals, with no evident population trend. Despite such apparent population stability, we confirm this population remains small and geographically isolated which may threaten its viability and the viability of its unusual, localized foraging specialization. Our study also illustrates how accounting for individual variation can portray animal population dynamics more realistically.