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Using drones to study the social relationships of dolphins

How do you study the social behaviour of dolphins who spend most of their time underwater? A new study uses drone video footage to study the social relationships of a pod of Risso’s dolphins (Grampus griseus) in the Azores, Portugal.

Collecting data is highly dependent on factors like group size and structure as well as the observation platform. Using drone video footage allows to collect new data regarding the relative position and synchronisation within the group for each individual, opening the door to perform statistical analyses of sociality that would not be possible using photo-ID from ship-based surveys. The paper has been prepared in collaboration with the Nova Atlantis Foundation, based in the Azores. It can be downloaded here:

Hartman, K., van der Harst, P. & Vilela, R. (2020):
Continuous Focal Group Follows Operated by a Drone Enable Analysis of the Relation Between Sociality and Position in a Group of Male Risso’s Dolphins (Grampus griseus)
Front. Mar. Sci. 7:283. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2020.00283
External Link

There is also a video abstract giving an overview of the aims and methods of the project. You can find it here.