Long-term decline in survival and reproduction of dolphins following a marine heatwave

Sonja Wild, Michael Krützen, Robert W. Rankin, William J.E. Hoppitt, Livia Gerber, Simon J. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


One of many challenges in the conservation of biodiversity is the recent trend in the frequency and intensity of extreme climatic events [1]. The Shark Bay World Heritage Area, Western Australia, endured an unprecedented marine heatwave in 2011. Catastrophic losses of habitat-forming seagrass meadows followed [2], along with mass mortalities of invertebrate and fish communities [3]. Our long-term demographic data on Shark Bay's resident Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) population revealed a significant decline in female reproductive rates following the heatwave. Moreover, capture–recapture analyses indicated 5.9% and 12.2% post-heatwave declines in the survival of dolphins that use tools to forage and those that do not, respectively. This implies that the tool-using dolphins may have been somewhat buffered against the cascading effects of habitat loss following the heatwave by having access to a less severely affected foraging niche [4]. Overall, however, lower survival has persisted post-heatwave, suggesting that habitat loss following extreme weather events may have prolonged, negative impacts on even behaviourally flexible, higher-trophic level predators. Video Abstract:[Figure presented]

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R239-R240
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019


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