Research

The coast of South Africa is recognised as a global hotspot of cetacean diversity with over 30 species known to occur. The diversity is due in large part to the range of oceanographic conditions and habitats available around the coast with the cool upwelling driven Benguela Ecosystem on the west coast, the warm Agulhas Current on the east coast and between them a transitional area of variable oceanography along the 800 km of southern Cape coast. The oceanographic conditions affect the abundance and diversity of marine life at all trophic levels including cetaceans. The contrasts and diversity of life make for an exciting and intriguing research environment. Four species of coastal dolphins have their global or regional range limits within approximately 100 km of coastline around the Cape Peninsula (34°00 S, 18°20 E), at an area of strikingly contrasting oceanography.

Research Projects

Sea Search team members are working on a wide range of species and research topics and have set up a range of comparative study sites around southern Africa. At these sites we are investigating the conservation status, health, dynamics and structure of cetacean populations which are impacted by aquaculture, marine tourism, coastal development and shipping amongst other human impacts. Data from these study sites are being used within a comparative framework to investigate ecological interactions and human impacts on cetaceans at a range of scales from within bays (kms) and between adjacent bays (10’s to 100s of km) to within ecosystems (e.g. northern and southern Benguela), and between ecosystems (Benguela to Agulhas).

  • Effect of Climate Change on Cetaceans

    Effect of Climate Change on Cetaceans

    E3C - Global climate change is affecting biological systems at all trophic levels, but the likely response of most marine species is poorly understood. We are using the biogeographical boundary around the Western Cape to investigate the mechanisms limiting the ranges of several dolphin species. Read more

  • The Namibian Dolphin Project

    The Namibian Dolphin Project

    Established in 2008, the NDP is our core and longest running project. Primarily focused on the conservation ecology of Heaviside's dolphins and common bottlenose dolphins, we work on a wide range of topics in Namibia including large whale ecology, marine turtles, dolphin acoustic communication and Marine Protected Areas. Read more

  • Humpback dolphin - National Assessment

    Humpback dolphin - National Assessment

    The humpback dolphin is South Africa's most endangered cetacean with less than 1000 animals thought to occur in South Africa. We are working with colleagues along the coast to coordinate a national assessment of this shy nearshore resident. - www.sousaproject.org Read more

  • Mossel Bay Cetacean Project

    Mossel Bay Cetacean Project

    We have been studying the cetacean fauna of Mossel Bay in association with Oceans Research since 2010. We're tackling a variety of research questions here from long-term habitat use and seasonality, to human impacts and the interaction of cetaceans and white sharks. Read more

  • Other work conducted by Sea Search Members

    Other work conducted by Sea Search Members

    Many of our members are involved in other work related to marine mammal research and conservation.
    Read more

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Publications

Many of the research projects operated by Sea Search have been featured in publications across many well known journals. Below you will find a list of all our publications to date, with links and downloadable versions where applicable.

  • Automatic classification of whistles from coastal dolphins of the southern African subregion

    Erbs, Florence, Elwen, Simon H and Tess Gridley - (2017) Download publication

  • The acoustic repertoire of wild common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Walvis Bay, Namibia. -

    Gridley T, Nastasi A, Kriessel HJ and SH Elwen - (2015) View publication online

  • Signature whistles in free-ranging populations of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops aduncus.

    Gridley T, Cockcroft VG, Hawkins E, Lemon Blewitt M, Morisaka T and VM Janik - (2013) Download publication

  • Identification and Characteristics of Signature Whistles in Wild Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) from Namibia

    Kriesell HJ, Elwen SH, Nastasi A and T Gridley - (2014) View publication online

  • Humpback whales off Namibia: occurrence, seasonality, and a regional comparison of photographic catalogs and scarring

    Elwen SH, Tonachella N, Barendse J, Collins T, Best PB, Rosenbaum HC, Leeney RH and T Gridley - (2014) View publication online

  • Records of kogiid whales in Namibia, including the first record of the dwarf sperm whale (Kogia sima)

    Elwen SH, Gridley T, Roux J-P, Best PB and MJ Smale - (2013) View publication online

  • Injury and Subsequent Healing of a Propeller Strike Injury to a Heaviside’s Dolphin (Cephalorhynchus heavisidii)

    Elwen SH and Leeney RH - (2010) View publication online

  • Signature whistles in free-ranging populations of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops aduncus

    Kriesell HJ, Elwen SH, Nastasi A and T Gridley - (2013) View publication online

  • False killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens) sightings in continental shelf habitat off Gabon and Coˆte d’Ivoire (Africa)

    Weir CR, Collins T, Cross T, Gill A, Elwen SH, Unwin M and RJ Parnell - (2013) View publication online

  • Cetacean research in the southern African subregion: a review of previous studies and current knowledge

    SH Elwen, KP Findlay, J Kiszka and CR Weir - (2011) View publication online

  • Gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) sighting in Namibia (SE Atlantic) – first record for Southern Hemisphere.

    Elwen SH and Gridley T - (2013) View publication online

  • Humpback whales in Namibia 2005-2012: occurrence, seasonality and a regional comparison of photographic catalogues and scarring rates with Gabon and West South Africa.

    Elwen SH, Tonachella N, Barendse J, Collins T, Best PB, Rosenbaum HC, Leeney RH and T Gridley - (2012) View publication online

  • Pygmy right whale Caperea marginata records from Namibia

    RH Leeney, K Post, PB Best, CJ Hazevoet and SH Elwen - (2013) View publication online

  • Death under the surface – Cape fur seal predating on a southern giant petrel in Walvis Bay, Namibia. Ornithological Observations.

    Elwen SH, Meintjies J and J-P Roux - (2012) View publication online

  • Whistle vocalizations of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) inhabiting the south-west Indian Ocean

    Gridley T, Berggren P, Cockcroft VG and VM Janik - (2013) View publication online

  • Integrating multiple data sources to assess the distribution and abundance of bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus in Scottish waters

    - (2012) View publication online

  • Female southern right whales Eubalaena australis: Are there reproductive benefits associated with their coastal distribution off South Africa?

    Elwen SH and PB Best - (2004) View publication online

  • Environmental factors influenceing the distribution of southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) on the south coast of South Africa I: Broad sclae patterns

    Elwen SH and PB Best - (2004) View publication online

  • Range and movements of female Heaviside's dolphins (Cephalorhynchus heavisidiii), as determined by satellite linked telemetry)

    Elwen SH, Meyer MA, Best PB, Kotze PGH, ThorntonM and S Swanson - (2006) View publication online

  • Full reference list used in meta-analysis – Elwen et al 2011 Review

    Elwen SH, Findlay KP, Kiszka J and CR Weir - (2011) View publication online

  • Interactions between leatherback turtles and killer whales in Namibian waters, including possible predation

    Elwen SH and RH Leeney - (2010) View publication online

  • Transit station or destination? Attendance patterns, movements and abundance estimate of humpback whales off west South Africa from photographic and genotypic matching

    Barendse J, Best PB , Thornton M, Elwen SH, Rosenbaum HC, Carvalho I, Pomilla C, Collins TJQ, Meÿer MA and RH Leeney - (2012) View publication online

  • Using Static Acoustic Monitoring to Describe Echolocation Behaviour of Heaviside’s Dolphins (Cephalorhynchus heavisidii) in Namibia

    Leeney RH, Carslake D and SH Elwen - (2011) View publication online

  • A population estimate of Heaviside’s dolphins, Cephalorhynchus heavisidii, at the southern end of their range

    Elwen SH, Reeb D, Thornton M and PB Best - (2009) View publication online

  • The first African Marine Mammal Colloquium, South Africa

    Elwen SH, Thornton M, Kirkman SP, Pistorius PA and CR Weir - (2010) View publication online

  • Diurnal movements and behaviour of Heaviside’s dolphins, Cephalorhynchus heavisidii, with some comparative data for dusky dolphins, Lagenorhynchus obscurus

    Elwen SH, Best PB, Reeb D and M Thornton - (2009) View publication online

  • Near-shore distribution of Heaviside’s (Cephalorhynchus heavisidii) and dusky dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) at the southern limit of their range in South Africa

    Elwen SH, Thornton M, Reeb D and PB Best - (2010) View publication online

  • Possible non-offspring nursing in the southern right whale, Eubalaena australis

    Best PB, Elwen Sh, Palsbøll PJ, Thornton M, Austin E and K Vinding - (2015) View publication online

  • Abundance and degree of residency of humpback dolphins Sousa plumbea in Mossel Bay, South Africa

    James BS, Bester MN, Penry GS, Gennari E and SH Elwen - (2015) View publication online

  • Epidemiology of lobomycosis-like disease in bottlenose dolphins Tursiops spp. from South America and southern Africa

    Van Bressem M-F , Simões-Lopes PC , Félix F, Kiszka JJ , Daura-Jorge FG, Avila IC, Secchi ER, Flach L, Fruet PF, du Toit K, Ott PH, Elwen SH, Di Giacomo AB, Wagner J, Banks A and K Van Waerebeek - (2015) View publication online

  • The use of data from a platform of opportunity (whale watching) to study coastal cetaceans on the southwest coast of South Africa

    Vinding K, Bester MN, Kirkman SP, Chivell W and SH Elwen - (2015) View publication online