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Ranging Patterns and Exposure to Cumulative Stressors of a Tursiops truncatus (Common Bottlenose Dolphin) in Georgia
Brian Balmer, Eric Zolman, Jennie Bolton, Deborah Fauquier, Erin Fougeres, R. Clay George, Tracey Goldstein, Michael Gowen, Trip Kolkmeyer, Carolina Le-Bert, Blair Mase, Terry Norton, Jon Peterson, Teri Rowles, Jerry Saliki, and Gina Ylitalo

Southeastern Naturalist, Volume 18, Issue 1 (2019): N1–N9

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N1 2019 Southeastern Naturalist Notes Vol. 18, No. 1 B. Balmer, et al. Ranging Patterns and Exposure to Cumulative Stressors of a Tursiops truncatus (Common Bottlenose Dolphin) in Georgia Brian Balmer1,*, Eric Zolman1,2,3, Jennie Bolton4, Deborah Fauquier5, Erin Fougeres6, R. Clay George7, Tracey Goldstein8, Michael Gowen9, Trip Kolkmeyer7, Carolina Le-Bert1, Blair Mase10, Terry Norton11, Jon Peterson12, Teri Rowles4, Jerry Saliki13, and Gina Ylitalo4 Abstract - Tursiops truncatus (Common Bottlenose Dolphin) in Georgia are exposed to multiple natural and anthropogenic stressors. Here, we describe a case study of an adult, male Common Bottlenose Dolphin entangled in marine debris, that was temporarily captured, disentangled, sampled for health assessment, satellite tagged, and released. Photographic-identification history and short-term tagging data support that the animal, Z58, has long-term site fidelity to the estuaries of southern Georgia. Health-assessment results identified several abnormal health parameters, including anemia, which likely resulted from exposure to extremely high site-specific contaminants that are known in the area. This note provides a case study of the various stressors to which Common Bottlenose Dolphins in Georgia are exposed, which can be used to develop effective management strategies for at-risk populations. Marine mammal populations continue to be exposed to a suite of natural and anthropogenic stressors (reviewed in Tyack et al. 2017). Along the Georgia coast, Tursiops truncatus (Montagu) (Common Bottlenose Dolphin, hereafter, Dolphin) have been identified with the highest levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) ever reported in marine wildlife (Kucklick et al. 2011), and these levels are related to Dolphins’ localized ranging patterns near a US Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site in Brunswick, GA (Balmer et al. 2011). These extremely high PCB concentrations have been associated with immune suppression and further hypothesized to increase susceptibility to disease (Schwacke et al. 2012). During 2013–2015, an unusual mortality event (UME) occurred along the western North Atlantic, wherein over 1600 Dolphins stranded from New York to Florida (Morris et al. 2015). Approximately 90% of Dolphins tested during the UME were positive or 1National Marine Mammal Foundation, 2240 Shelter Island Drive, Suite 200, San Diego, CA 92106. 2Jardon and Howard Technologies (JHT) Incorporated, 2710 Discovery Drive, Orlando, FL 32826. 3National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Ocean Service, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, 331 Fort Johnson Road, Charleston, SC 29412. 4Environmental and Fisheries Sciences Division, Northwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2725 Montlake Boulevard East, Seattle, WA 98112. 5National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, Office of Protected Resources, 1315 East West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. 6National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, Southeast Regional Office, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701. 7Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Nongame Wildlife Conservation, 1 Conservation Way, Brunswick, GA 31520. 8Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center, One Health Institute, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, 1089 Veterinary Medicine Drive, Davis, CA 95616. 9SouthEast Adventure Outfitters, 313 Mallory Street, St. Simons Island, GA 31522. 10National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, Southeast Fisheries Science Center, 75 Virginia Beach Drive, Biscayne, FL 33149. 11Georgia Sea Turtle Center/Jekyll Island Authority, 214 Stable Road, Jekyll Island, GA 31527. 12SeaWorld Orlando, 7007 Sea World Drive, Orlando, FL 32821. 13Athens Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, University of Georgia, 501 DW Brooks Drive, Athens, GA 30602. *Corresponding author - Manuscript Editor: Barbara E. Curry Notes of the Southeastern Naturalist, Issue 18/1, 2019 2019 Southeastern Naturalist Notes Vol. 18, No. 1 N2 B. Balmer, et al. suspect positive for dolphin morbillivirus (DMV) (Fauquier et al. 2014). Although ~6% of the UME strandings occurred in Georgia, it is currently unclear to what degree resident bay, sound, and estuarine Dolphins in the state were impacted by this UME. Dolphins in Georgia are also exposed to human interactions including illegal feeding (Hazelkorn et al. 2016, Perrtree et al. 2014) and entanglement in fisheries gear and marine debris (Hayes et al. 2017). For the greatest likelihood of population sustainability/recovery, especially for small populations with restricted ranges (e.g., Rayment et al. 2009, Wells et al. 2013), it is essential for management agencies to identify all stressors impacting protected species, and determine which of these stressors can be mitigated (Tyack et al. 2017). The goal of this case study is to provide detailed information pertaining to a Dolphin with long-term site fidelity to the estuaries of southern Georgia that has been exposed to cumulative stressors throughout its lifetime. On 17 June 2017, a Dolphin was observed by M. Gowen with a loop of twine cutting into the base of its dorsal fin (Fig. 1A) in the Hampton River, ~20 km northeast of Brunswick, GA (Fig. 2). The animal’s dorsal fin was identified by B. Balmer and B. West (National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, Charleston, SC) in the Southern Georgia Photographic-identification (Photo-ID) Catalog (2004–present) (GDNR/NOAA/NMMF) as Catalog ID 2132, which had a total of 5 reported sightings between August 2007 and April 2010, including in the waters west of Sapelo Island, Altamaha Sound, Hampton River, and southwestern St. Simons Island (Fig. 2). Georgia Department of Natural Resources personnel monitored the Figure 1. Tursiops truncatus (Common Bottlenose Dolphin) individual Z58 observed on (A) 17 June 2017, with marine debris entanglement; (B) 13 July 2017, with entanglement removed and SPOT 299- A (Wildlife Computers, Redmond, WA), location-only, satellite transmitter attached; (C) 16 August 2017, with healing entaglement wound and functional satellite tag; and (D) 18 April 2018, with wellhealed entanglement wound and nonfunctional satellite tag with antenna no longer attached. N3 2019 Southeastern Naturalist Notes Vol. 18, No. 1 B. Balmer, et al. animal to assess whether the entanglement was life threatening and to determine if an intervention was possible. The animal was routinely sighted in the waters around the Hampton River, at depths conducive for capture (less than 5 m), and the entanglement wound was observed to continue to worsen. The National Marine Fisheries Service, in consultation with an expert team of marine-mammal researchers and veterinarians, determined that the entanglement was life threatening, and a capture was carried out on 13 July 2017. The animal was encircled with a seine net and, once restrained, was moved to shallow water for disentanglement and examination (capture methodology reported in Norman et al. 2004). The twine appeared to be orange polypropylene “baling twine”, which is commonly used in the region to bind pine straw (Fig. 3). Upon removal of the twine, based on the Dolphin’s condition and temperament, and in consultation with the lead veterinarian, morphological measurements and biological samples were collected (Schwacke et al. 2014). These parameters included blood and serum samples for hematology and serum chemistry, a serum and blowhole sample for morbillivirus testing, and a blubber biopsy for environmental-contaminant analyses. The animal was an adult male, with a total length of 278 cm, and teeth worn flat in several places. A freezebrand (Z58) was applied to both sides of the dorsal fin (for the purpose of aiding long- Figure 2. Tursiops truncatus (Common Bottlenose Dolphin) individual Z58’s photographic-identification (photo-ID) sighting locations from August 2007 to April 2010, satellite locations from July 2017 to September 2017, and 50% and 95% utilization distributions (UDs). 2019 Southeastern Naturalist Notes Vol. 18, No. 1 N4 B. Balmer, et al. term identification) (Scott et al. 1990). Prior to release, Z58 was tagged with a location-only, satellite transmitter (SPOT 299-A; Wildlife Computers, Redmond, WA; Fig. 1B) to provide insight into ranging patterns and facilitate follow-up monitoring to evaluate intervention success (see Balmer et al. 2014a). The tag had a projected battery life of 280 d (250 transmissions per day), was coated with Propspeed (Oceanmax, Ltd., Auckland, NZ) to reduce biogrowth, and was programmed for seven 1-h transmission-window blocks per day. To assess hematology and serum chemistry, whole-blood and serum samples were shipped on cold packs overnight to the Animal Health Diagnostic Center (Cornell University, College of Veterinary Medicine, Ithaca, NY). Hematology and serum-chemistry results were grouped into panels to identify pathologic or organ system abnormalities (Schwacke et al. 2014). Three abnormal panels were identified: anemia, electrolytes and minerals, and inflammation (Table 1). The serum sample for DMV serology was shipped to the Marine Mammal Diagnostic Service (Athens Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, University of Georgia, Athens, GA) and tested negative by serum neutralization for antibodies (methods described in Saliki and Lehenbauer 2001). The blowhole swab was shipped to the Marine Ecosystem Health Diagnostic and Surveillance Laboratory (University of California, Davis, CA) (methods described in Serrano et al. 2017) and tested negative by polymerase chain-reaction (PCR) using a pan-morbillivirus assay followed with specific primers for DMV. The blubber sample for contaminant analyses was shipped to the Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NMFS, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Seattle, WA). Persistent organic-pollutant concentrations were measured as previously described (Balmer et al. 2015). Dolphin Z58 had extremely high levels of ΣPCBs (510 μg/g, lipid weight), and the majority of PCB congeners were associated with the previously mentioned Superfund site near Brunswick, GA (ΣAroclor 1268 = 390 μg/g, lipid weight; Table 1). Figure 3. Marine debris, likely baling twine, removed from Tursiops truncatus (Common Bottlenose Dolphin) individual Z58’s dorsal fin during intervention on 16 August 2017. N5 2019 Southeastern Naturalist Notes Vol. 18, No. 1 B. Balmer, et al. Dolphin Z58’s satellite tag transmitted for 63 d (13 July 2017–14 September 2017), and provided 257 quality locations (Location Class [LC] 3, 2, and 1; Table 1). The Dolphin was resighted 7 times during the follow-up monitoring and as recently as 14 September 2018, primarily in the estuarine waters of the Hampton River and Village Creek (Fig. 2). Follow-up monitoring was essential for providing insights into Z58’s post-disentanglement health, and for assessing the reason for satellite-tag failure before the end of the estimated 280-d battery life. On 16 August 2017, Z58 was observed to have moderate Table 1. Percent lipid, persistent organic-pollutant (POP)–contaminant concentrations (reported as μg/g, lipid weight), hematological and serum biochemical-parameter panels, capture–telemetry summary, and (50% and 95%) utilization distributions (UDs) for Tursiops truncatus (Common Bottlenose Dolphin), individual Z58. ΣPOPs = sum of all measured persistent organic pollutant compounds. ΣOCPs includes the sum concentration of all ΣDDTs, ΣCHLs, HCB, mirex, and dieldrin. ΣPCBs includes the sum concentrations of 45 PCB congeners; see Balmer et al. (2015) for a complete list. ΣAroclor 1268 includes the sum concentrations of 13 PCB congeners; see Balmer et al. (2011) for a complete list. ΣDDTs includes the sum concentrations of o,p’-DDD, DDE, and DDT; and p,p’- DDD, DDE, and DDT. ΣCHLs includes the sum concentrations of alpha chlordane, cis-nonachlor, beta chlordane, heptachlor, heptachlor epoxide, nonachlor III, oxychlordane, and trans-nonachlor. ΣPBDEs includes the sum concentrations of PBDEs 28, 47, 49, 66, 85, 99, 100, 153, 154, 155, 183, Br5DE04, Br5DE05, Br6DE01, and Br7DE01 (unidentified congeners with 5, 6, or 7 bromines). HCB = Hexachlorobenzene Datum Value Animal ID Z58 Sex M Length (cm) 278 Lipid 11 Σ POP 600 Σ OCP 72 Σ PCB 510 Σ Aroclor 1268 PCB 390 Σ DDT 54 Σ CHL 13 Σ PBDE 18 Mirex 4 Dieldrin 0.6 HCB 0 # of abnormal panels 3 Anemia 1 Electrolytes and minerals 1 Hepato-biliary 0 Hypo-glycemia 0 Inflammation 1 Iron 0 Renal function 0 Deployment date (dd-mmm-yy) 13-Jul-17 Final transmission date (dd-mmm-yy) 14-Sep-17 Cumulative # of quality locations (3, 2, and 1) 257 Number of days transmitting 63 50% UD (km2) 1.52 95% UD (km2) 5.32 Reason for tag failure Electronics 2019 Southeastern Naturalist Notes Vol. 18, No. 1 N6 B. Balmer, et al. healing at the entanglement site (base of dorsal fin) and the satellite tag was still transmitting (Fig. 1C). The tag ceased transmitting on 14 September 2017. On 29 September 2017, Z58 was resighted with the entanglement site almost completely healed. The satellite tag was still attached, and there were no apparent external issues with the tag. Based on the expected battery life, we determined likely that the wet/dry sensor on the tag was damaged, or that there was an unknown internal electronics issue that resulted in early tag failure. Dolphin Z58 was observed on 15 February 2018, 18 April 2018 (Fig. 1D), and 6 June 2018 (329 d post-tag attachment) with a well-healed entanglement wound and nonfunctional tag, now with the tag antenna missing. Based upon observations of previously tagged individuals (n = 77), the tags are eventually lost either via migration out of the dorsal fin, leaving a small notch, or attachment pin/nut failure, leaving a well-healed hole (Balmer et al. 2014a). On 14 September 2018, Z58 was observed with no tag and a wellhealed hole at the attachment location on the dorsal fin. We used kernel density estimates (KDEs) as a quantitative method to determine Z58’s 95% and 50% utilization distributions (UDs) from the high-quality (LC 3, 2, and 1) satellite location data (Worton 1989). For UD calculations, we used a KDE method for an environment with barriers to movement in Geostatistical Analyst and Spatial Analyst Tools (ArcGIS 10.4.1, ESRI, Redlands, CA). The output grid-cell size was 250 m x 250 m. The selection of bandwidth, or the smoothing parameter (h), is an important decision because KDE distributions can be overor under-estimated if an inappropriate value is used (Horne and Garton 2006, Kie et al. 2010). The methodology for bandwidth selection is dependent on the goals of the project, ranging patterns of the target species, and amount of data available for spatial analyses (Gitzen et al. 2006, Rayment et al. 2009). We employed a rule-based ad hoc method (Kie 2013) and Home Range Tools (HRT) for ArcGIS (Rodgers et al. 2015) to determine the appropriate bandwidth. Dolphin Z58’s 95% and 50% UDs were both very small: 5.32 km2 and 1.52 km2, respectively (Table 1, Fig. 2). Dolphin Z58 provides an example of the multifactorial stressors to which Dolphins in Georgia are exposed throughout their lives. Although Z58’s exact age is unknown (a tooth was not obtained for age estimation during the intervention), based upon the animal’s total length (278 cm), extremely high levels of site-specific contaminants (ΣPCB = 510 μg/g, lipid weight; ΣAroclor 1268 PCB = 390 μg/g, lipid weight) and long-term photo-ID sighting history since 2007, he is likely an older animal with high site-fidelity to the estuaries of southern Georgia. During a 2009 health assessment in southern Georgia in which 29 Dolphins were captured, 1 individual (Z22), sighted in the region via photo-ID since 2004, was an adult male, 257 cm in length, 32 y old, and also had high levels of site-specific contaminant concentrations (ΣPCB = 507 μg/g, lipid weight; ΣAroclor 1268 PCB = 370 μg/g, lipid weight) (Balmer et al. 2011). Dolphin Z58, like many of the dolphins examined during the 2009 health assessment conducted in Georgia, suffered from anemia, which has been associated with chronic PCB exposure in primates (Arnold et al. 1993) and Dolphins (Schwacke et al. 2012). The chronic entanglement wound and associated blood loss and inflammation could have also played a role in Z58’ s anemia. Survey effort for the Southern Georgia Photo-ID Catalog was conducted intermittently across seasons from 2004 to the present, with the most intensive effort during 2008–2009, in which surveys were conducted during each season for those 2 years. Balmer et al. (2013) identified that only 15% (n = 94/646) of Dolphins from the Southern Georgia Photo-ID Catalog had ranging patterns that included estuarine waters both to the north and south of Altamaha Sound. Based upon these results and genetic data, Altamaha Sound was designated as the geographic boundary delineating the Central and Southern Estuarine System Stocks of Dolphins (Hayes et al. 2017). Dolphin Z58’s photo-ID sightings were during N7 2019 Southeastern Naturalist Notes Vol. 18, No. 1 B. Balmer, et al. spring (April) and summer (August) of 2007–2010, and had a relatively large ranging pattern across Altamaha Sound, from the estuarine waters of Sapelo Island to St. Simons Island. However, Z58’s ranging pattern from the satellite telemetry data post-disentanglement was one of the smallest observed in tagged Dolphins from the southeastern US (Balmer et al. 2014b, Mullin et al. 2017, Wells et al. 2017). It is unclear if these variations in Z58’s range were a result of different sampling methodologies (short-term [satellite telemetry] versus long-term [photo-ID]), temporal shifts in seasonal and/or yearly ranging patterns, or a result of the entanglement injury. Several studies have identified that study-area size and sampling methodology can influence our understanding of ranging patterns (e.g., Balmer et al. 2014b, Nekolny et al. 2017). Based upon the short-term satellite telemetry data, Z58 would have been hypothesized to be a member of the Southern Georgia Estuarine System Stock. However, the long-term photo-ID data suggest that Z58’s range is within the boundaries of both the Central and Southern Georgia Estuarine System Stocks. In addition, although Z58 was sighted across 2 seasons and multiple years, it is unclear if this individual may have movements outside of the study area during other seasons. The differences in Z58’s ranging patterns between the photo-ID and satellite-telemetry data illustrate the complexities in developing effective management strategies for long-lived, and potentially highly mobile species such as Dolphins. Marine debris continues to inflict acute and chronic injuries to cetaceans (Baulch and Perry 2014) and other marine species (Sheavly and Register 2007). The baling twine that was cutting through Z58’s dorsal fin provides another example of the impacts associated with marine debris on wildlife populations. It is interesting that Z58 did not test positive for DMV antibodies or infection, given that the majority of Dolphins examined during the mortality event of 2013–2015 tested positive for the virus. The cumulative stressors to which Z58 was exposed, including extremely high levels of contaminants, injuries caused by marine-debris entanglement, and no immunity from DMV infection, are all parameters that should be considered when developing plans for managing resident Dolphins in Georgia waters. Acknowledgments. This work was conducted under NMFS MMPA/ESA Permit No. 18786-01 and all sampling protocols were reviewed and approved by a NOAA/NMFS ad hoc Institutional Animal Care and use Committee (IACUC). We thank the marine-mammal stranding-network researchers and veterinarians who supported the intervention and subsequent laboratory analyses including the Chicago Zoological Society, Georgia Aquarium Conservation Field Station, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University, Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, and National Institute of Standards and Technology. Special thanks to S. Burton (Florida Atlantic University), B. West (National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science), A. Barleycorn (Chicago Zoological Society), J. Morey (National Marine Mammal Foundation), and A. Moors and J. Ness (National Institute of Standards and Technology). Literature Cited Arnold, D.L., F. Bryce, K. Karpinski, J. Mes, S. Fernie, H. Tryphonas, J. 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