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Author Archive

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!

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

IMG_5639-web-credit

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.

IMG_5631-web-credit

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

 

IMG_5527-web-with-credit

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

IMG_5447-web-with-credit - Copy

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

Dolphin Epimelitic Behavior, Nov. 1, 2015

Written by Tursiops. Posted in bottlenose dolphin photo ID, Conservation, Marine Mammal Stranding Network, Sighting Report, Uncategorized

On Sunday, Nov. 1st, Katrina Smith reported a floating dead north carolina dolphin in the Newport River near the ICW at the Morehead Beaufort Yacht Club. Upon arrival, Vicky Thayer (NCDMF and NCSU CMAST) and Keith Rittmaster (NCMM) of the NC Marine Mammal Stranding Network noticed it was being supported and moved by another dolphin, a behavior termed “epimeletic”. After approximately 90 minutes of taking photos and video, and seeking help, they (with volunteer Nelson Owens) brought the dead dolphin carcass onto Lee Sykes’ TowBoat US boat near the Morehead/Beaufort high-rise bridge 5 kilometers from where it was initially sighted. After a brief examine, they put it in the CMAST freezer for future necropsy. The most interesting aspect about this case so far is that the dead dolphin, the one being supported and pushed, was a non-lactating adult female. This is unusual because such epimeletic behavior has often been directed towards dead calves, but not towards an adult dolphin as far as we know.

Both bottlenose dolphins are in the nc maritime museum dorsal fin photo-ID catalog, although neither has been seen often. An upcoming necropsy as part of our ongoing dolphin research will yield more information about the dead dolphin, and hopefully future sightings of the “pusher” will teach us more about that dolphin as well.TBUS-VT-NO-Tt-web-credit

VGT34701Nov2015epimeletic-web-credit

2014 Thank you donors, volunteers, contributors and collaborators

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Thank You / Volunteer

Listed below are individuals/groups whose generosity helped sustain the Cape Lookout Studies Program in 2014 by providing:

Cleaning supplies, office supplies, photo paper, printer/copier, printer ink, batteries, plane tickets, shade canopy, stainless hardware, surgical gloves, lumber, band saw, drill bits, orbital sander, sand paper, vacuum cleaner, food, drinks, notebooks, XM Radio subscription, web hosting fees, web site maintenance, $4,399 in cash donations/grants and approximately 1,292 hours of volunteer time.  THANK YOU!!

Sincere thanks also go out to everyone who has an NC “Protect Wild Dolphins” special license plates which raised for Friends of the Museum a total of $10,120 in 2014.   The dolphins thank you too.

Bud Doughton

Al Fitz

Anonymous

Blake Dodge

Bobbi Wallinger

Carl Spangler

Carolina Cay Maritime Found.

Carteret Animal Hospital

Dennis Sorensen

Duke Coastal Society

Durham Academy

Elena Kovalik

Elizabeth Hanrahan

John Stanton

Friends of the Hammocks

Friends of the Museum

Harriett Watkins

Historical Soc. of Topsail Isl.

Hope Longest

Howard Lineberger

John Fussell

John Russell

Josh Summers

Keith Rittmaster

Kim Merrels

Lookout Foundation

Lora/Vic Fasolino

Mackenzie Russell

Mallory Lowe

Matty Jackman

Mary & Haywood Holderness

Mary Hunnings

Nelson Owens

Patti Owens

Paul Nader

Paula Dailey

“Protect Wild Dolphins” license plates

Regina & Bruce McCutcheon

Rich Shapiro

Rob Gourley

Sinbad

Steve Hassenfelt

Suzanne & Vance Knight

Ted Phillips

Todd Sturgell

Verena Lawaetz

Vicky Thayer

Wendy Donaldson

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

The importance of the Stranding Network

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Uncategorized

Samantha Emmert, a Biology and Evolutionary Anthropology undergraduate at the Duke Marine Lab, writes about the importance of supporting the North Carolina Central Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

http://sites.duke.edu/dukeresearch/2014/02/04/volunteer-network-shouldnt-be-stranded-and-dying/

“It is hard to say what will become of the NC Central Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network and others like it. Without renewed funding in the 2014 year, Vicky will be unable to continue the network and stranding response will stop in this area.”

This is a critical time for dolphins in the Atlantic. Every piece of information we can gather about increase in the mortality rate due to the morbillivirus is vital. Worried about the overall ecosystem? Worried about how it will influence fishing in the area? Just love dolphins and recognize that they are an integral part of what we all love about the North Carolina coast? You should her story here.