On-going Studies Links
Stable isotope analysis that compliments ongoing SDRP research offers a means to explore dolphin foraging habits.
Habitat use. Unique isotope ratios permeate the food web. For example, primary producers (e.g. sea grass and phytoplankton) have unique stable carbon isotope values.
Isotope analysis can distinguish dolphins that depend on fish from sea grass habitats compared to dolphins that rely on a phytoplankton based food web. These data allow us to link dolphin survey data on habitat use and prey fish selection [WWD/On-going studies/prey fish selection].
Thus, isotope research can help us understand dolphin ecology.
Stranded dolphins. Sulfur isotope data from tooth collagen can distinguish individuals from three different population units: Sarasota Bay, the nearshore Gulf of Mexico (Gulf) and offshore Gulf of Mexico. This approach will be helpful for determining the origin of stranded dolphins.
Calf survival. New research will use isotopes to investigate the extent to which dolphin calves are nutritionally dependent on their mother’s milk as they are weaned. These results should provide clues to calf foraging behavior by age, which in turn may increase our understanding of factors the influence calve survival.