Associate Professor Stephanie Plön

Honorary Research Associate

I have been researching cetaceans in Eastern Cape waters, South Africa, for the past 27 years, focusing on the general ecology of local species, including their natural history, reproductive biology, and trophic ecology, but also anatomy, population ecology and genetics, strandings, pathology and health assessments. For this I use a diverse array of research methods and collaborate widely with colleagues in related research fields to gain a more holistic picture of variations in the populations found in our local Eastern Cape waters in South Africa. A number of studies have utilised data and samples from investigations of bycaught animals at the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board and stranded animals along the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal coastlines in collaboration with Bayworld/Port Elizabeth Museum. Other important information has been obtained from field studies in Algoa Bay and along the Wildcoast, These studies have included a variety of small cetacean species (Kogia brevicepsKogia simaGrampus griseusTursiops aduncusDelphius delphisSousa plumbea) as well as baleen whales (Megaptera novaeangliaeEubalaena australisBalaenoptera brydei) and the dugong (Dugong dugon). Increasingly, I have pursued an integrative and comparative research approach, combining various lines of investigation and using them to cross-inform each other. I aim to produce research that results in information that is relevant to conservation and management efforts and have been involved in conservation management initiatives, such as the South African Red List assessment (2014) as well as contributed to IUCN Red List assessment (2019). In addition, active collaborations exist with colleagues in Germany, New Zealand, the UK and the USA.

Selected publications and reports

Caputo, M., Froneman, P. W. and S. Plön. 2020. Common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) occurrence off the Wild Coast, South Africa. African Journal of Marine Science.

Caputo, M., Bouveroux, T., Froneman, P.W., Shaanika, T. and Plön, S. 2020. The importance of the Wild Coast of South Africa for Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) using photographic identification. Marine Mammal Science. DOI: 10.1111/mms.12740.

Van Bressem, M.-F., Duignan, P., Raga, J. A., Van Waerebeek, K., Fraija-Fernández, N., and S. Plön. 2020. Cranial crassicaudiasis in two coastal dolphin species from South Africa is predominantly a disease of immature individuals. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms 139: 93-102.

Schoeman, R.P., Patterson-Abrolat, C. and S. Plön. 2020. A global review of vessel collisions with marine animals. Frontiers in Marine Science 7: 292. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2020.00292

Plön, S., Heyns-Veale, E., Smale, M. and P. W. Froneman. 2020. Life history parameters and diet of Risso’s dolphins (Grampus griseus, Cuvier, 1812) from southeastern South Africa. Marine Mammal Science. doi:

Ngqulana, S., Plön, S., Pistorius, P., Galatius, A. and G.J.G. Hofmeyr 2019. Cranial variation in common dolphins (Delphinus spp.) off South Africa with the inclusion of information from the holotype of Delphinus capensis Gray, 1828. African Journal of Marine Science 41(3): 247-260. doi: 10.2989/1814232X.2019.1648318

Plön, S., Thakur, V., Parr, L., and S. Lavery. 2019. Phylogeography of the dugong (Dugong dugon) based on historical samples identifies vulnerable Indian Ocean populations. PLoS One 14(9): e0219350. doi:

Aznar-Alemany, Ò.,Sala, B., Plön, S., Bouwman, H., Barceló, D. and Eljarrat, E. 2019. Halogenated and organophosphorus flame retardants in cetaceans from the southwestern Indian Ocean. Chemosphere 226: 791-799.

Plön, S., Frainer, G., Wedderburn-Maxwell, A., Cliff, G., and S. Huggenberger, S. 2018. Dorsal fin and hump vascular anatomy in the Indo‐Pacific humpback dolphin (Sousa plumbea) and the Indo‐Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus). Marine Mammal Science. DOI: 10.1111/MMS.12570.

Ngqulana, S. G., Pistorius, P., Galatius, A., Plön, S. and G. J. G. Hofmeyr 2018. Variation in cranial morphology of bottlenose dolphins (genus Tursiops) off South Africa. Marine Mammal Science. DOI: 10.1111/mms.12553.

Frainer, Plön, S., G., Moreno, I. B., Serpa, N. B. and S. Huggenberger 2018. Sound generating structures of the humpback dolphin Sousa plumbea (Cuvier, 1829) and the directionality in dolphin sounds. The Anatomical Record. DOI: 10.1002/ar.23981.

Bouveroux, T., Melly, B., McGregor, G. and S. Plön 2018. Another dolphin in peril? Photo-identification, occurrence and distribution of the endangered Indian Ocean humpback dolphin (Sousa plumbea) in Algoa Bay. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems. DOI: 10.1002/aqc.2877.

Bouveroux, T., Caputo, M., Froneman, P. W. and S. Plön 2018. Largest reported groups for the Indo‐Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) found in Algoa Bay, South Africa: Trends and potential drivers. Marine Mammal Science. DOI: 10.1111/mms.12471.

Vermeulen, E., Bouveroux, T., Plön, S., Atkins, S., Chivell, W., Cockcroft, V., Conry, D., Gennari, E., Hörbst, S., James, B. S., Kirkman, S., Penry, G., Pistorius, P., Thornton, M., Vargas Fonseca, A., and S. Elwen 2018. Indian Ocean humpback dolphin (Sousa plumbea) movement patterns along the South African coast. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 28:231-240. DOI: 10.1002/aqc.2836.

Ngqulana, S., Hofmeyr, G. and S. Plön 2017. Sexual dimorphism in long-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus capensis) from KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Journal of Mammalogy 98(5): 1389-1399.

Caputo, M., Froneman, P. W., Du Preez, D., Thompson, G. and S. Plön 2017. Long-term trends in cetacean occurrence during the annual Sardine Run off the Wild Coast, South Africa. African Journal of Marine Science 39(1): 83-94.

Koper, R., Drost, E., and S. Plön 2017. First sighting of a leucistic humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) in South African Coastal waters. Aquatic Mammals 43(3): 331-334.

Melly, B. L., McGregor, G., Hofmeyr, G. and S. Plön 2017. Spatio-temporal distribution and habitat preferences of cetaceans in Algoa Bay, South Africa. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the U.K.