Movement heterogeneity of dugongs, Dugong dugon (Müller), over large spatial scales

Sheppard, James K., Preen, Anthony R., Marsh, Helene, Lawler, Ivan R., Whiting, Scott D., and Jones, Rhondda E. (2006) Movement heterogeneity of dugongs, Dugong dugon (Müller), over large spatial scales. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 334 (1). pp. 64-83.

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Seventy dugongs were fitted with satellite PTTs and/or GPS transmitters in sub-tropical and tropical waters of Queensland and the Northern Territory, Australia. Twenty-eight of the 70 dugongs were also fitted with time-depth recorders. The dugongs were tracked for periods ranging from 15 to 551 days and exhibited a large range of individualistic movement behaviours; 26 individuals were relatively sedentary (moving < 15 km) while 44 made large-scale movements (> 15 km) of up to 560 km from their capture sites. Male and female animals, including cows with calves, exhibited large-scale movements (LSM; > 15 km). Body length of travelling dugongs ranged from 1.9 to 3 m. At least some of the movements were return movements to the capture location, suggesting that such movements were ranging rather than dispersal movements. LSMs included macro-scale regional movements (> 100 km) and meso-scale inter-patch local movements (15 to < 100 km) and were qualitatively different from tidally-driven micro-scale commuting movements between and within seagrass beds (< 15 km). The mean ± S.E. macro-scale movement distance per individual was 243.8 ± 35.4 km (N = 14 individuals that travelled > 100 km), with a mean ± S.E. travel time of 179.8 ± 29.0 h. The mean ± S.E. meso-scale movement distance per individual was 49.7 ± 3.3 km (N = 28 individuals that made movements of 15–100 km), with a mean ± S.E. travel time of 52.3 ± 7.1 h. LSMs were rapid and apparently directed (mean ± S.E. travel speeds for GPS tagged animals; meso-scale movements = 1.3 ± 0.11 km/h, min = 0.3, max = 3.0; macro-scale movements = 1.6 ± 0.16 km/h, min = 0.8, max = 1.3). Tracked dugongs rarely travelled far from the coast (mean ± S.E. max distance = 12.8 ± 1.3 km). Dive profiles from the time-depth recorders suggest that dugongs make repeated deep dives while travelling rather than remaining at the surface, increasing their likelihood of capture in bottom set gill nets. Some animals caught in the high latitude limits of the dugongs' range on the Australian east coast in winter apparently undertook long distance movements in response to low water temperatures, similar to migrational movements by Florida manatees. Our findings that dugongs frequently undertake macro-scale movements have implications for management at a range of scales, and strengthen the aerial survey and genetic evidence for management and monitoring at ecological scales that cross jurisdictions.

Item ID: 3903
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 0022-0981
Keywords: dugong; home range; satellite tracking; herbivore; large mammal; large-scale movement; migration; satellite telemetry; spatial ecology
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2009 04:44
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 51%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9613 Remnant Vegetation and Protected Conservation Areas > 961303 Protected Conservation Areas in Marine Environments @ 49%
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