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The franciscana dolphin, Pontoporia blainvillei (Gervais and d'Orbigny, 1844), under a new eyesight: research and conservation of a threatened cetacean species

Grant number: 18/17501-6
Support Opportunities:Regular Research Grants
Duration: March 01, 2022 - February 28, 2025
Field of knowledge:Physical Sciences and Mathematics - Oceanography - Biological Oceanography
Principal Investigator:Marcos César de Oliveira Santos
Grantee:Marcos César de Oliveira Santos
Host Institution: Instituto Oceanográfico (IO). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil


In the past 40 years the great majority of data on ecology and life history of franciscana dolphins, Pontoporia blainvillei (Mammalia, Cetartiodactyla), came from investigations of dead individuals found washed ashore or incidentally captured in gillnets along the species distribution. Those studies provided the baseline information to diagnose this species as threatened to extinction. This research proposal aims to apply modern technologies accessible to scientists from developing countries to study live franciscana dolphins. This study will be conducted from December 2019 to November 2021 at the northern coast of São Paulo state (ca. 23o26'S; 45o04'W) where franciscana dolphins have been frequently sighted based on the contrast of its brownish color pattern in local clear waters. The aim of this study is to evaluate social bonds through the analysis of group size and composition, describe diving time of groups with and without calves, investigate the effectiveness of local Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) established in the past 30 years when comparing the encounter rates as a proxy of abundance of franciscanas in and out of these areas, and to describe behavioral states and events with the help of unmanned aerial vehicles synchronized to sound recordings gathered by hydrophones. Sound, images and the results of this study will be used to provide a protocol of investigation of cryptic cetacean species with both tools, to improve our knowledge on the ecology and life history of P. blainvillei, and in educational campaigns on the species in public schools, offices of MPAs and in scientific meetings for undergraduate students. Another aim is to share the gathered knowledge in order to raise people's awareness to help environmental managers to establish public policy directed towards the establishment of management actions to protect this threatened small cetacean. (AU)

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