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Publication Details

Reference ranges for body condition in wild bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus

Author(s): Hart, L.B.; R.S. Wells; L.H. Schwacke

NCCOS Center: HML (

Publication Type: Journal Article

Journal Title: Aquatic Biology

Date of Publication: 2013

Reference Information: 18(1): 63-68

Keywords: marine mammal; morphometrics; health assessment; nutritional condition; mass; girth; length; quantile regression; Sarasota Bay

Abstract: Marine mammal body condition, as evaluated by a combination of mass, length and/or girth measurements, has often been considered an indicator of nutritional status. As such, we used measurements of total mass, total length, and maximum girth from long-term bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) capture-release research conducted in Sarasota Bay, FL, USA, (1987-2009) to develop 95th percentile reference ranges for two body condition models relating these metrics: 1) total mass vs. total length; and 2) maximum girth vs. total length. Nonlinear and linear quantile regression methods were used to estimate the parameters for the reference ranges and develop predictive models to examine body condition among individual dolphins. The flexibility of these models and reliance upon commonly acquired morphometrics allows for broad application among researchers lacking data on mass or age. Ultimately these reference ranges can be used to evaluate and compare the body condition of individual animals and provide an additional metric for evaluating the general health of coastal populations.