The bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus population in Doubtful Sound, New Zealand, has declined by over 34% since 1995 and is subject to potential impacts from tourism and habitat modification via freshwater discharge from a hydroelectric power station. The bottlenose dolphin population in neighbouring Dusky Sound is exposed to much lower levels of tourism and the fiord receives only natural freshwater runoff. We used dorsal fin identification photographs from both populations to compare levels of epidermal disease and laser photogrammetry to measure the dorsal fin base length of calves (95% of individuals), but lesion extent was 4 times higher in Doubtful Sound. Lesion extent was higher for female dolphins than for males in Doubtful Sound, but not in Dusky Sound. In Dusky Sound calves were larger at first observation and were born over a longer period. The short calving season in Doubtful Sound may be an adaptation to localized temperature conditions. Anthropogenic impacts may contribute to the higher levels of epidermal disease in the Doubtful Sound population. The higher extent of epidermal lesions in females and the smaller size of calves in Doubtful Sound may be a factor in the low survival of calves in the population.
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