Eavesdropping on dolphins: Investigating the habits of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) through fixed acoustic stations
This study investigates the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus, Montagu 1821) habitat use in the Portofino marine protected area (NW Italy) and adjacent waters, a core area for the dolphins and a highly touristic area in the Mediterranean Sea. A permanent automated real-time passive acoustic monitoring system, able to detect and track dolphins continuously, was tested in the area within the activities of the Life+ Nature project ARION. The habits of bottlenose dolphins was investigated considering the resident rate inside the area, which quantifies the amount of time dolphins spent in these waters, by means of random forest regression. The dependency of dolphin resident rate was analyzed in relation to four explanatory variables: sea surface temperature, season, time of day, and proximity to the coast. Dolphins spent more time in the area during spring and when sea surface temperature ranged between 15–16°C. Summer resulted the season with lower dolphin residency with significant difference between working day and weekend, in the last the lowest residency was recorded. Main findings provide important information to properly manage the area in order to protect bottlenose dolphins.