An Ethogram for Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the Shannon Estuary, Ireland
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Ethograms, or categorized lists of behavioral descriptors, are fundamental research tools in the study of animal behavior and are essential to the overall understanding of the behavioral ecology of a species. With specific definitions of activity state categories and behavioral event types, the behavior of a species can be described, quanti-fied, and compared across populations. We pres-ent the first ethogram for bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Ireland based on sighting records collected during 256 surveys (2014-2016) in the Shannon Estuary. The ethogram consists of 11 activity states and 45 behavioral events. The most frequently recorded activity state was Travel (52%), while the most frequently recorded behav-ioral events were Slow travel (40% of sightings), Surface rush (28% of sightings), and Leap (28% of sightings). The ten least frequently recorded behaviors were seen in only 10% of total sightings with < 8 records each. A video test for multiple researchers to assess inter-observer reliability in behavioral data recording demonstrated the valid-ity of this study’s behavioral data and the effi-cacy of the ethogram in its applicability to other studies. Validity (percentage agreement = 88.1 ± 7.0) and reliability (Fleiss’ Kappa = 0.81) scores were high across 24 test participants (12 trained and 12 untrained), but results indicated that those with prior training scored significantly higher. Furthermore, we investigate the presence/absence of behaviors recorded in other studies of bottle-nose dolphins. This ethogram and behavioral dis-cussion serve to describe and compare quantita-tive data on the behavior of bottlenose dolphins in Ireland for the first time and provide a strong basis for further research.
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