SPOTLIGHT: New study opens doors to better understand the ecology of large and highly mobile marine predators
A research collaboration fostered by an MSc thesis
The Master Thesis of Morgane Dromby (University of Algarve) was an opportunity for studying the applicability of using nucleic acids derived indices to provide insights on the ecophysiological traits of two marine mammal species. This resulted from a collaboration, led by Filipe Alves, from the Oceanic Observatory of Madeira (OOM), together with researchers from other national and international institutions.
Understanding the ecophysiological condition of highly mobile large predators
It is important to understand the physiology of an organism in function of its environment and the factors contributing to its variability. Why? Because this can enable assessment of the relative impacts of anthropogenic and ecological pressures, which is essential in a changing world.
The use of nucleic acid-derived indices that contribute to such understanding is common for many marine species but scarce on highly mobile large predators. In this study, we tested the applicability of using those biochemical indices to provide insights on the condition traits of two marine mammal species: the common bottlenose dolphin and the short-finned pilot whale. This research showed that the analyzed individuals were in good ecophysiological condition suggesting that the studied region of Macaronesia may be considered an adequate habitat.
Opening doors to further studies
The combination of this effective tool combined with others, namely genetic sexing and photographic-identification, provided an overall picture of ecosystem health. Although with some limitations and still being a first approach, this tool has the applicability to be used in other top predators and ecosystems.
You can read the full article HERE.