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The aim of this assessment is to advance our understanding in the spatial ecology of the resident inshore and offshore population of bottlenose
dolphins in Golfo Dulce (GD) and Osa Peninsula Waters (OPW). Our approach used niche-based models (Phillips et al., 2006, Thorne et al., 2012,
Friedlaender et al., 2011), which provided details of how dolphins use coastal and oceanic habitats, describing the factors that influence their
distribution in the study area and identifying the critical habitats to be considered for management and conservation. Our analyses indicate several
important aspects of the distribution of these two ecotypes of bottlenose dolphins. As expected in the study area, these two ecological races occur
in close proximity, but differ in the structural factors of the habitat they occupy. The inshore population uses areas close to the mouths of the rivers
as critical foraging habitats, being influenced by tidal cycles and seasonal changes in water temperature and salinity. The offshore population in
oceanic habitats must rely on prey species found in rare but profitable patches, therefore pelagic dolphins in the open ocean would often need to
travel long distances searching for these patches. Distribution models illustrating the difference in habitat use presented in this assessment are key
to effective management of the marine mammalsâ€™ diversity in Costa Rica.
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