Diet and Life History of Irrawaddy Dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea
Jackson-Ricketts, J., Ruiz-Cooley, R.I., Junchompoo, C., Thongsukdee, S., Intongkham, A., Ninwat, S., Kittiwattanawong, K., Hines, E.M., and D. P. Costa. 2018.Diet and Life History of Irrawaddy Dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea. Marine Mammal Science https://doi.org/10.1111/mms.12547
Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) are threatened, little‐known cetaceans primarily jeopardized by fishing gear entanglement. Information regarding life history, foraging ecology, and movement are crucial to determine management units and conservation regions. This is the first analysis of the ontogenetic changes in diet and habitat of Irrawaddy dolphins from the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea using stable isotopes from skin and teeth. Results suggest limited age and sex structure indicated by weak ontogenetic and sexual variability in δ15N and δ13C in teeth. Significant variation in δ13C and δ15N values were observed between three Gulf regions and the Andaman Sea, indicating distinct regional groups. Isotope mixing models run on soft tissues from the eastern Gulf revealed a diet based primarily on fishes and secondarily on crustaceans, suggesting overlap with fishery targets. Conservation strategies that focus on reducing regional competition with humans and bycatch mortality are proposed. Fishing gear improvements and monitoring of fishing operations are a potential immediate response to reduce anthropogenic impact.