A new paper has been published in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology:

Temporal and geographic patterns of kinship structure in common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) suggest site fidelity and female-biased long-distance dispersal

Laura Ball, Kypher Shreves, Małgorzata Pilot, André E. Moura


Social structure plays a crucial role in determining a species’ dispersal patterns and genetic structure. Cetaceans show a diversity of social and mating systems, but their effects on dispersal and genetic structure are not well known, in part because of technical difficulties in obtaining robust observational data. Here, we combine genetic profiling and GIS analysis to identify patterns of kin distribution over time and space, to infer mating structure and dispersal patterns in short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis). This species is highly social, and exhibits weak spatial genetic structure in the Northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea, thought to result from fluid social structure and low levels of site fidelity. We found that although sampled groups were not composed of closely related individuals, close kin were frequently found in the same geographic location over several years. Our results suggest that common dolphin exhibits some level of site fidelity, which could be explained by foraging for temporally varying prey resource in areas familiar to individuals. Dispersal from natal area likely involves long-distance movements of females, as males are found more frequently than females in the same locations as their close kin. Long-distance dispersal may explain the near panmixia observed in this species. By analysing individuals sampled in the same geographic location over multiple years, we avoid caveats associated with divergence-based methods of inferring sex-biased dispersal. We thus provide a unique perspective on this species’ social structure and dispersal behaviour, and how it relates to the observed low levels of population genetic structure in European waters.


The full text can be accessed using this link: