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Studies of dugongs dugong dugon at shark bay western australia 1. analysis of population size composition dispersion and habitat use on the basis of aerial survey


, : Studies of dugongs dugong dugon at shark bay western australia 1. analysis of population size composition dispersion and habitat use on the basis of aerial survey. Australian Wildlife Research 9(1): 69-84

In midwinter dugongs concentrate in western Shark Bay, adjacent to Dirk Hartog Island, although scattered individuals or groups remain in other regions. Up to 496 dugongs were counted in intensively surveyed western areas in July, 1979. At least 553 individuals are calculated to have been present in the region, and a minimum population of over 900 individuals estimated for the Bay as a whole. The population seems to be a well defined isolate, and is relatively undisturbed. Conditions are very favorable for more detailed study. A method for estimating the number of animals overlooked in the blind zone directly beneath the aircraft is described. Aerial counts of dugongs varied greatly with conditions. Cloud cover had a large depressing effect; surface turbulence and subsurface turbidity were less significant. Dugong activity is concentrated on the sublittoral platform. Sites of major aggregation may not be the same in successive years. Locally favored habitats are at the seaward margins of the sublittoral platform, and on offshore shoals. Vegetation patterns at favored sites may reflect dugong grazing. Persistent use of favored localities, and local shifts in concentration were observed. Distribution of other large vertebrates and boats relative to that of dugongs was examined and a significant correlation between sightings of large sharks and larger aggregations of dugongs was found. Analysis of dispersion revealed that most dugongs were in groups, although most sightings were of single individuals. Cows with calves were less likely to be in the company of other dugongs than were adults without calves. From 11-12% of individuals were calves.

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