Health conditions of Guiana dolphins facing cumulative anthropogenic impacts

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Abstract

Coastal areas are associated with anthropogenic activities and stressors that can expose the marine fauna to negative cumulative impacts. Apex predators, such as dolphins, can flag the quality of their environment through health parameters such as cutaneous and body conditions. We examined the potential relationship between environmental conditions and health parameters of Guiana dolphins around a port and a conservation unit within the Paranaguá Estuarine Complex, southern Brazil. During boat surveys between July 2018 and April 2019 covering both areas, we measured environmental parameters, photographed dolphins to infer their health condition and the frequency of use of the estuary. In total, 204 individual Guiana dolphins were photo-identified, 52 of which were seen in both years. In general, dolphins showed poor body condition (76% classified as emaciated or thin in 2018, and 79% in 2019), diverse cutaneous conditions (four types of lesions suggestive of an infectious aetiology, two conditions suggestive of traumatic events of anthropogenic origin, and two anomalous pigmentation) and a high prevalence of such cutaneous conditions (85% in 2018, 70% in 2019). Most individuals maintained their body and cutaneous conditions between the two years. There were no clear differences between the port and the conservation areas in terms of environmental conditions, frequency of use and health conditions of individual dolphins, suggesting that dolphins inhabiting this estuarine complex are exposed to potential cumulative impacts, such as pollutants, noise and habitat degradation. This study provides baseline information on some health parameters of Guiana dolphins in southern Brazil and highlights the need for systematic, long-term health assessment of Guiana dolphin populations to guide conservation actions to safeguard this vulnerable species.

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Soares, E. D., Cantor, M., Bracarense, A. P. F. R. L., Groch, K. R., & Domit, C. (2022). Health conditions of Guiana dolphins facing cumulative anthropogenic impacts. Mammalian Biology, 102(4), 1589–1604. https://doi.org/10.1007/s42991-022-00299-3

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