GoMDIS continues to serve as a standardized and centralized catalog for bottlenose dolphins throughout the Gulf of Mexico. With continued funding assistance through NOAA and the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, this repository integrates data submitted from collaborating groups around the Gulf which have location-specific photo-identification catalogs.
We currently have 23 collaborating groups with 32 potential catalogs from around the Gulf, including Mexico and Cuba. We have also begun incorporating non-photo-ID programs into GoMDIS. This includes rehabilitated/released animals and deceased (but identifiable) animals. Thirteen catalogs from the possible 32 have been submitted to GoMDIS. This has yielded a repository of 9,462 individuals and 15,462 images. These data are maintained by the curator in the offline GoMDIS database and are periodically uploaded to the OBIS-SEAMAP website, facilitating data-sharing and providing our colleagues with a secure, online fin-matching interface. Quick searches on many of these project animals have yielded several interesting preliminary findings.
A match between two catalogs was found where a probable female dolphin was seen ten years later more than 80 miles away. Other matches found between catalogs are anywhere from a few miles, to 20 miles away. By using the OBIS-SEAMAP database mapping tool, we used the location points of animals seen in the late 1980’s- early 1990’s by SDRP outside of our normal survey area to make several extreme changed fin matches to animals from a project closer to the location of those surveys, albeit many years later. These have been circulated to the catalog owners for their approval. If approved, this will extend the sighting history of these animals from a few years to more than twenty years in some cases. The longest duration between sightings from two catalogs is 24 years apart.
The submission of non-photo-ID program catalogs has also provided interesting collaborative data. In positive news for rehabilitation programs, two dolphins which had been successfully rehabilitated have been sighted by another program over a year post-release with continued sightings approximately 19 miles from their release site and 13 miles from their stranding site. By incorporating deceased but identifiable bottlenose dolphins, we have matched numerous animals to surrounding photo-ID programs, giving a final sighting and providing valuable data by completing their life history.
Further investigation will occur on these matches between the collaborating organizations involved by comparing sighting histories. This will allow us to better determine the ranging patterns of these animals, which in turn will help management agencies to better define stock structure and obtain more accurate abundance estimates.
This article appeared on page 21-22 in the December 2015 issue of Nicks n Notches.