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Tursiops

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!

2016 Thank you donors, volunteers, contributors, and collaborators!

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Thank You / Volunteer, Uncategorized

Thank you 2016 donors, volunteers, contributors, and collaborators!
Listed below are individuals/groups whose generosity helped sustain and improve the Cape Lookout Studies Program in 2016 by providing printer ink, photo paper, office supplies, sandpaper, boat fuel, belt sander, cleaning supplies, food, batteries, Sirius/XM radio subscription, book writing, book editing, book publishing, book sales, food, drinks, Ryobi cordless combo power tool set, AC/DC cooler/warmer, computer maintenance, notebooks, artwork , attorney fees, shovel, celebrations, web hosting fees, web site maintenance, fencing, lumber, hardware cloth, lodging in DC, bench grinder, monofilament bin maintenance, Spyhop maintenance, dolphin license plate promotion, $45,581 in cash donations/grants, and approximately 1,090 hours of volunteer time. THANK YOU!!
Sincere thanks also go out to everyone who has an NC “Protect Wild Dolphins” special license plate which raised through Friends of the Museum a total of $10,360 in 2016. The dolphins thank you too.

Congratulations and thanks to Vicky Thayer, the 2016 recipient of the CLSP Outstanding Volunteer award.

Alejandro de la torre
Alex Denson
Alexandra DiGiacomo
Alina Ahmad
Allen Fitz
Andrew Gumbel
Ann Pabst
Anne Straneva
Anonymous
Barbie LaBrun
Bill McLellan
Bonnie Monteleone
Bruce McCutcheon
Bud Doughton
Cam Luck
Candice Sheehan
Carl Cedarholm
Carolina Lamb
Christina Burt
Dan Prendiville
Dana Smith
David Mickey
Dean Vick
Donna Snead
Elizabeth Hanrahan
Ginger Taylor
Haywood Holderness
Helen Aitken
Henrik Cox
Jack Sweeney
James and Lois Pease
Jeremy Dugas
Jim Mead
John Atkins
John Fussell
John Ososky
John Russell
Jong Gwan Lee
Josh Summers
Julian Mann
Kameron Schroeder
Karen Clark
KC Bierlich
Kim Beller
LaNelle Davis
Lee Hinson
Lilla Wieseler
Lingrong Jin
Lookout Foundation
Maddie Go
Mike McEarl
Miriam Brown
Molly Matlock
Nan Bowles
Nivi Ram
Paul Nader
Paul Summers
Pranav Madabhushi
Ralph Merrels
Sam Bryan
Sam Warburton
Sinbad
Springmoor
Steve Hassenfelt
Steve Thornton
Sue Schmidt
Sunny Zhang
Todd Stuart Foundation
Tom Kirmeyer
Tom Reams
Town Creek Marina
Vance/Suzanne Knight
Verena Lawaetz
Vicky Thayer
Virginia Connett
Wendy Donaldson
Woody Warburton

Click here to visit our Thank You page – dedicated to the supporters, volunteers, backers and collaborators of the Cape Lookout Studies Program.

Entangled Humpback Whale frees itself

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Uncategorized

At 7:30 a.m. on October 26, 2017, a fisher reported to the NC Marine Mammal Stranding Network an entangled humpback whale around 2 miles offshore of Oceanana Fishing Pier near Beaufort Inlet. NCMM Natural Science Curator Keith Rittmaster arrived on the scene around 9:00 a.m. The whale appeared to be immature based on the size, and was lively, breathing and diving somewhat normally, but clearly encumbered by parts of a monofilament gill net that had caused some injury to the whale. While Vicky Thayer and team from the NC Division of Marine Fisheries and NCSU CMAST along with Doug Nowacek and team from Duke Marine Lab readied boats, crews, disentanglement gear and tags, Keith stayed with the entangled humpback whale and photographed the injuries and entanglement. At 10:20, after a prolonged submergence of around eight minutes, the whale resurfaced with a burst of energy and lunged speedily away – it had apparently freed itself from the entangling gear. YAY! That was one lucky humpback whale (although the whale may not agree). Keith and Doug’s teams gathered both pieces of the net for subsequent examination by NOAA Fisheries Law Enforcement. The following day Vicky with a team from CMAST and Duke examined and photographed the net after stretching it out in a parking lot, and determined that the entire net had been collected – the whale was apparently gear-free! As we report this, curators of several regional humpback whale photo-identification catalogs are searching for sighting records of the individual whale. This case highlights the critical value of collaboration. Information about the NC Marine Mammal Stranding Network and the Atlantic Large Whale Disentanglement Network can be found at http://www.marinemammalsnccnc.com/ and https://www.greateratlantic.fisheries.noaa.gov/protected/stranding/disentanglements/whale/alwdn.html.

Photos by Keith Rittmaster, NC Maritime Museum, under NOAA Fisheries permit.

entangled humpback whale

The whale’s tail (flukes) showing the entangling net and injury.

entangled humpback whale

The whale’s blowholes.

entangled humpback whale

The distinctive color patterns and scars on the flukes may be helpful in identifying this individual whale.

entangled humpback whale

The whale’s distinctive dorsal fin may be helpful in identifying this individual whale.

Bottlenose Dolphin “Holly”

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

It’s “Holly”, so it must be summer: Bottlenose dolphin sighting

One of our best known summer bottlenose dolphins in Beaufort is “Holly”.  We identify her by photos that show the 3 very distinct notches on her dorsal fin – a process called “photo-identification”.  She is a mom (likely a great-grandmother by now) who we first identified in Beaufort in July, 1989.  We’ve seen her nearly every summer since then, and her dorsal fin looks very much the same today (27 years later!).  We’ve seen bottlenose dolphin holly approximately 100 times between Beaufort and Cape Lookout over the years, but only between April and October.  Her sightings here peak in August.  We believe Holly spends winters in around Wrightsville Beach – we’re still trying to figure that out.  Holly is a well-known dolphin along our coast among people studying bottlenose dolphins and is featured in the Animatronic Dolphin Discovery exhibit at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.  We haven’t seen Holly as much as we used to so it was a special treat to see her in the Newport River twice so far this summer.  You can see more photos of Holly and try your photo-ID skills at http://www.capelookoutstudies.org/dolphin-id-game/.

 

bottlenose dolphin holly

 

Live Stranded Minke Whale

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Marine Mammal Stranding Network

Mandibles of live stranded minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) reveal chronic net entanglement

On May 9, 2015, a live young entangled and stranded minke whale came ashore on the ocean beach of Duck, NC.  Responders from the Outer Banks Marine Mammal Stranding Network removed net which was embedded in flesh at the tips of the mandibles.  The whale was refloated but soon returned to the beach and died.  The cleaned mandibles show bone having grown around the entangling net demonstrating the chronic nature of the entanglement.

stranded minke whale

North Carolina Whales & Whaling Symposium April 9, 2016

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Cetacean Studies, Conservation, Marine Mammal Stranding Network, monofilament recycling

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This day-long event will include several presentations focusing on whales and historic hunting practices. Participants will learn about species of whales that can be found in our coastal waters, how some of these whales were hunted from the shore and research involved with stranded animals. The program includes: 10 a.m. Whales of North Carolina (Natural Science Curator Keith Rittmaster) 11 a.m. Native American Whaling and Porpoise Hunting (Education Curator John Hairr) 1 p.m. The History of Whaling in North Carolina (Associate Curator Benjamin Wunderly) 2 p.m. Legendary Cetaceans (Historic Interpreter Christine Brin) 3 p.m. NC Marine Mammal Stranding Response (Marine Mammal Stranding Coordinator Dr. Vicky Thayer) No advance registration. Walk-ins welcome. . North Carolina Maritime Museum, 315 Front Street, Beaufort. www.ncmaritimemuseums.com.

Lethargic Dolphin Nov. 2015

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

In August, 2015, during a routine atlantic bottlenose dolphin photo-ID survey, Keith Rittmaster and Josh Summers of nc maritime museum / cape lookout studies encountered a dolphin intermittently rafting lazily at the surface in Back Sound. It appeared to be an unusual behavior but we could not determine a problem so we photographed the bottlenose dolphin and continued on. It was subsequently reported by boaters in the same area in August because the behavior was conspicuous.

Then in early November, 2015 we received multiple reports of a tursiops truncatus (bottlenose dolphin) “disabled”, “dying”, “with a shredded tail”, and ultimately the last report (as of this writing) on November 5th, 2015 was that it was “dead floating upright” in Beaufort Inlet. Dead dolphins don’t float upright and we found what was reported as “dead” on November 5th very much alive, and its behavior recalled our August encounter in Back Sound. But again, not being able to determine a problem, we took photographs and moved on.

Subsequent examination of photos from the 2 encounters confirmed our suspicion that the dolphin we saw Nov. 5th in Beaufort Inlet was the same individual as the one we saw in Back Sound in August. Also evident in the dolphin identification image above [or below?] is 1) it appeared skinnier in November, 2) the injury on its left side in August has healed, and 3) it had fewer Xenobalanus barnacles on its dorsal fin in November. What was reported as a “shredded tail” was actually barnacles on the trailing edge of its tail (see photo).lethargic-dolphin-web-credit Tt-Xeno-flukes-web-credit

Fin whale, and “Onion” returns, Nov.16, 2015

Written by Tursiops. Posted in bottlenose dolphin photo ID, Cape Lookout Studies Program, Cetacean Studies, Marine Mammal Stranding Network, Sighting Report

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Today was an amazing day for the crew of Spyhop. The day started out with 2015’s first sighting of “Onion” here in Beaufort. While out for our regular bottlenose dolphin photo ID survey we encountered him  in the estuary near Phillips Island. He appears to be in good condition, and seems to be in the company of a new companion.

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We continued out to the ocean, as weather conditions were perfect. No other groups of bottlenose dolphins were seen off Shackleford banks. However, several blows from whales were visible in the distance. Heading back into Beaufort inlet we spotted a very unusual sight…A Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) just off of Atlantic Beach! This encounter is highly unusual as Fin whales are rarely sighted south of Hatteras in NC or near the beach in shallow water. While photographing this animal for documentation and possible photo identification we sighted a humpback whale, also very near the beach and a short distance away near the AB circle. Unfortunately we did not have the opportunity to photograph this animal. However, on our way back to the dock we encountered yet another humpback whale only slightly farther offshore of Ft Macon!

fin whalefin whale


Fin whale top left and right, Humpback whale below:
humpback whale

Nov. 11, 2015 Dolphin Photo ID

Written by Tursiops. Posted in bottlenose dolphin photo ID, Cape Lookout Studies Program

 

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Beautiful weather allowed us to go out today on our cape lookout studies program boat “Spyhop” and do our usual bottlenose dolphin survey and photo ID.  Just a few minutes after leaving the Gallant’s channel dock we encountered our first group of approx. 15 animals in the estuary. We recognized a few of our winter “regulars”, among them at least 3-4 mother/calf pairs. The next group was spotted in the ocean off the west end of Shackleford, including freeze brand (FB) #402. Freeze brand animals have been previously captured and marked with numbers to help with dolphin research and identification. A lot can be learned from the sightings of these animals. The third group we saw was fairly large, but due to deteriorating weather conditions we decided not to attempt photos. Inside Cape Lookout Bight we saw a single bottlenose dolphin and surprisingly (for this time of year) several sea turtles, one identified as a large Loggerhead. We had hoped for another sighting of the humpback whale repeatedly seen in the area over the last few weeks, and last photographed by us on Nov. 5, 2015.

Here are today’s “best of” bottlenose dolphin dorsal fin photos:

bottlenose dolphin fin photos

Humpback Whale, Cape Lookout, NC, Nov 5, 2015

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Conservation, Sighting Report, Uncategorized

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The changing seasons bring new visitors to our waters here on the North Carolina Crystal Coast…

This time of year we anticipate sightings of our “winter” atlantic bottlenose dolphins arriving for their annual stay. Seldom do we encounter other species near shore, so the recent sighting of a humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) was an unusual treat.

In the western North Atlantic ocean, humpback whales feed during spring, summer, and fall in a range that encompasses from western Greenland south to the mid Atlantic region of the eastern coast of the United States. Their preferred diet consists mainly of krill and small schooling fish species.

In winter, whales from the North West Atlantic migrate to subtropical/tropical waters to mate and calve. Not all whales migrate south every winter however, and significant numbers of animals are found in mid- and high-latitude regions at this time.

Similar to all baleen whales, adult humpback whale females are larger than adult males, reaching lengths of up to 60 feet (18 m). Their body coloration is primarily dark grey, but individuals have a variable amount of white on their pectoral fins and belly. This variation is so distinct that the pigmentation pattern on the undersides of their “flukes” is used to identify individual whales, similar to a human fingerprint. Other markings on the body and fins are useful for identification as well. One of the most distinguishing characteristics for this species is the “humped” dorsal fin for which the species is named.

Once hunted heavily to near extinction levels, populations of humpback whales are increasing and in recovery. The species is a true marine mammal conservation success story.

During our rather lengthy encounter with this animal we were fortunate to witness and record multiple events of “lunge feeding” on large schools of menhaden (another heavily exploited species that is showing signs of a population increase due to a ban on large scale targeted harvesting).

Through some of the photographs taken by the crew of “Spyhop” we have successfully matched this animal to other recent local sightings of north carolina whales, and hope to use them for further whale identification studies.

If you happen to sight a whale, please enjoy the experience in a cautious manner and at a safe distance (see NOAA guidelines). These animals are large, and though peaceful, direct encounters with boats can be dangerous for both humans and whales.

north carolina humpback whale fluke