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Tursiops truncatus is the scientific name for the common bottlenose dolphin. Tursiops is also the user name shared by volunteers who contribute to this blog. If you have an idea for a blog post, or think we should comment on an article you've found, click the contact button above and drop us a line!

Bottlenose Dolphin Caitlin, photographed since 1993

Written by Tursiops. Posted in bottlenose dolphin photo ID, Uncategorized

On Thursday, May 31, 2018, NCMM Natural Science Curator Keith Rittmaster and Research Assistant Nan Bowles headed out into the Newport River on the research vessel Spyhop in search of bottlenose dolphins. They encountered a group of five dolphins. One of the dolphins was a well-known female named “Caitlin”. Caitlin was first identified in Beaufort on June 14, 1993 by examining photographs showing the distinct notches on her dorsal fin, a process called photo-identification. Keith has photographed Caitlin every summer since 1993 – a total of 80 days over 25 years. She has only been seen in Beaufort during the months of April through October. Caitlin has also been seen in Wilmington, North Carolina by researchers doing similar work.  Another dolphin seen that day was a presumably young mother with her neonate (new-born calf). We have documented a birth peak of bottlenose dolphin in April/May each year. This young mom’s dorsal fin was smooth (no notches), therefore not identified.

Find out more about local bottlenose dolphin photo-identification.

Photos by Keith Rittmaster under NOAA/NMFS permit.

bottlenose dolphin caitlin





Cuvier’s beaked whale stranding

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Uncategorized

Ziphius cavirostris, cuviers beaked whale

Dead stranded 535 cm adult female Cuviers’ beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris) on the ocean beach of Ft Macon State Park, NC on June 19, 2017.

On June 19, 2017 a 535 cm (17’ 7”), Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris) was reported washed ashore at Fort Macon State Park. Dr. Vicky Thayer, coordinator for the central area NC Marine Mammal Stranding Network, responded with a team which included staff from UNC Wilmington, the N.C. Maritime Museum, N.C. State University Center for Marine Sciences and Technology in Morehead City, Duke University Marine Lab in Beaufort, NC Aquariums, and the NC Division of Marine Fisheries. The various responders worked together quickly and efficiently on the beach and back at NC State CMAST to examine, measure, and necropsy the animal. Middle school students scheduled for a presentation as part of the Brad Sneeden Marine Science Academy were also able to come to the site for a rare opportunity to see marine science in action.

The Cuvier’s beaked whale was determined to be a mature female. The necropsy and related tissue analyses, once completed, may be able give us more information.

The skeletal material is being prepared for future study and rearticulation by staff and volunteers of the NC Maritime Museum.

For more information about Cuvier’s beaked whales, visit

To report a stranded marine mammal (dead or alive), visit

Ziphius cavirostris, cuviers whale pectorals

left pectoral fin of a 535 cm adult female Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris) that stranded at Fort Macon, NC on June 19, 2017. Radiograph courtesy of Heather Broadhurst, NC Aquariums and NC State University Center for Marine Sciences and Technology.

Cutty with a neonate!

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Uncategorized

bottlenose dolphin, neonate

Bottlenose dolphin “Cutty” with neonate in Beaufort, 09 June 2017, photo by Keith Rittmaster under NOAA permit

The first day on the water with Spyhop’s new motor was exciting because we saw well-known bottlenose dolphin mom “Cutty” with a neonate in the Newport River. A relatively small mom, Cutty looks very much the same as she did when we first photographed her in Beaufort in July, 1985. Since then we’ve seen her in Beaufort on 103 days, only during the months of April-October.