• They have a lot more to teach us.

    We've learned a lot with your help. But there's still so much we need to know to protect our wild dolphin neighbors.

    Give to dolphin research at the Cape Lookout Studies Program.

  • Sea Turtel sick and injured from fishing line

    You can stop this.

    Protecting marine wildlife is within your reach.

    When you give to put monofilament recycling bins within reach of conscientious boaters and anglers.

  • Harbor seal in need

    Save lives, reduce suffering, learn more.

    It's a win, win, win – when you support our Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

    Please give generously to the Cape Lookout Studies Program.

  • Cetacean Studies

    Inspire curiosity.

    What does it take to get students interested in science and conservation? Your help.

    Please give generously to support Cetacean Studies and the Bonehenge rearticulation project.

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!

Student dolphin research grants awarded (2005)

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Uncategorized

2005 NC Student Grants

photo007photo008
Photos by Keith Rittmaster

Congratulations to the 2005 “Protect Wild Dolphins” grant recipients and thank you for your good work.

Recipients are all NC graduate students doing research on bottlenose dolphins. The grants are to help them defray the cost of presenting their work at the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic Marine Mammal Symposium March 18-20, 2005 in Wilmington, NC. Below is a list of the recipients with a short paragraph on how their research will help us protect and learn more about bottlenose dolphins. These grants are funded by the sale of the NC Maritime Museum’s “Protect Wild Dolphins” license plates.


Michelle Barbieri – UNCW

An assessment of seasonal changes in the dorsal fin surface temperatures of free-ranging bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Sarasota Bay, FL, USA

The goal of this study was to investigate the physiological and behavioral responses of resident bottlenose dolphins in Sarasota, Florida to seasonal changes in water temperature. Dorsal fin surface temperatures of free-swimming dolphins were measured across seasons using infrared thermography. This direct physiological measurement was paired with an assessment of how water temperature and dolphin distribution changed seasonally throughout the study area. Assessment of how these physiological and behavioral mechanisms interact is important in understanding bottlenose dolphin thermoregulation. These data describe the ability of dolphins to respond to environmental fluctuation, and can provide insight into thermal stress as well as the implications of global climate change for resident and migratory marine mammals. Seasonal distribution data may also be used to inform local management decisions, specifically in areas with rapidly developing coastlines, such as the Sarasota Bay region.


Victoria Thayer – Duke

Effort to disentangle a bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) calf in Beaufort, North Carolina

Entanglement is an important conservation problem for marine mammals in many parts of the world. In January 2005, we sighted a bottlenose dolphin calf swimming with an odd surfacing posture alongside its presumed mother in the waters near Beaufort, North Carolina. The mother was known from ongoing collaborative studies in the area by North Carolina Maritime Museum and the Duke University Marine Laboratory. Photographs taken that day and the following day confirmed suspicions that the animal’s swimming ability was severely hampered, likely by fishing gear not visible at the surface. The decision was made to intervene and capture the pair. Unfortunately, the calf died while restrained; post-mortem examination revealed extensive entanglement of 40 lb test monofilament line that had cut deeply into the mandible and caudal peduncle, and fungal sinusitis. The female was released and has subsequently been photographed with other dolphins. This case study reinforces the threat posed by discarded recreational and commercial fishing gear to marine wildlife. We hope to educate fishermen in North Carolina about appropriate means of discarding unwanted line by instituting a program similar to the Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Program in Florida.


Erin Meagher – UNCW

Seasonal differences in heat flux across multiple body surfaces in wild bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)

The work I will be presenting describes how wild bottlenose dolphins regulate their body temperature across seasonal changes in environmental temperature. Understanding these mechanisms may provide insight into their seasonal distributions and will hopefully provide baseline information that will be useful for monitoring populations of dolphins as global warming changes their coastal ecosystem.


Ari Friedlaender – Duke

Historic and recent mass stranding events of short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus) on the US Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts

Short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) are known to mass strand along both the US Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts. These events offer scientists unique opportunities to gain insight into the biology, physiology, ecology, behavior, and social dynamics of the species. The Smithsonian Institution has compiled over 50 mass stranding event records from 1896 to 2005, ranging from 3 to 140 animals. Mass stranding events are most common in the Gulf of Mexico in August, while February and October have the highest incidence along the US Atlantic coast. The average group size of mass strandings is higher along the US Atlantic coast (23.86) than the Gulf of Mexico (17.57), as is the average number of mass stranding events per year (0.42 versus 0.22). The most recent mass stranding event in January 2005 in North Carolina highlights the ability of marine mammal stranding networks to mobilize from various institutions and collect the highest quality tissue samples from a large number of animals. These samples will be used for myriad research projects to, in unprecedented detail, investigate both the cause of the stranding event and learn about the biology of short-finned pilot whales.

Entangled dolphin calf dies during rescue attempt.

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

UPDATED: See update at bottom of page

Entangled Dolphin Calf Dies During Rescue Attempt

by Keith Rittmaster,
Natural Science Curator
NC Maritime Museum
Jan. 13, 2005

On Tuesday, January 11th. off our NC Maritime Museum docks in Gallants Channel we saw a familiar dolphin named “Yang” (#1185). She has a very distinct dorsal fin and we have had her in our photo-ID catalog since 1992. We know she is a female because we have seen her before with a young calf. In fact, in October ´04 we photographed her with a young calf, one that was probably born around May, ´04. On Tuesday she was also with her young calf but this time her calf appeared to be entangled in fishing line, struggling at the surface for every breath, and unable to extend its body to swim properly. It was just Yang and her calf. No other dolphins were nearby.

We contacted some of our local colleagues (Vicky Thayer at Duke, Aleta Hohn and Gretchen Lovewell at NOAA/NMFS, and others) who came out on a boat with us to have a look and help evaluate the condition of the calf. Since we were observing what appeared to be a life-threatening human-induced injury, we began to pull together a group of local professional colleagues and volunteers to attempt a rescue coordinated and led by Aleta. On the morning of January 13th. 20+ people from 6 local institutions on very short notice in 6 boats set out with the goal of trying to safely locate, capture, disentangle, and release the calf. Within an hour of leaving the dock in light rain, we found (thanks to Janet Frye on her boat “Daydream”) Yang and her calf. The tide was high but they were near a sandbar so Blake Price, Dave Skinner, and Kevin Brown of the NC Dept. of Marine Fisheries deployed a large-mesh seine net and captured Yang and her calf on the first attempt. While restraining the 2 dolphins next to each other, we soon realized that the calf was horribly injured as a result of entanglement in a jumble of monofilament fishing line stretching from his mouth to his tail. Craig Harms, the attendant veterinarian from NCSU/CMAST, was considering euthanasia when the baby died in our arms in front of his mother, “Yang”. We released the mother.

The necropsy revealed that the fishing line had cut both sides of the mouth down into the bones (mandibles) and cut deeply near the tail almost to the spine. The outcome, although disappointing because we were unable to save the calf, left us with the rewarding feeling that we did the best we could have and forged relationships that are likely to be helpful in the future. It will be interesting to see if/when Yang joins up with other dolphins and gives birth again. If we had gotten to the baby sooner perhaps we could have saved him. We’re all feeling pretty deflated right now. We hope that those who read this will help educate others about the negative impacts of litter, particularly of discarded monofilament fishing line, on marine wildlife. Thanks for everyone’s support and help, especially the following people who assisted with the preparation and rescue attempt:

Aleta Hohn David Brown Nate Bacheler
Allen Brooks Emma Jugovich Patti Haase
Annie Gorgone Gretchen Lovewell Paul Rudershausen
April Goodman Janet Frye Rachel LoPiccolo
Ari Friedlander John Russell Tom Ninke
Blake Price Kevin Brown Vicky Thayer
Craig Harms Keith Rittmaster
Dave Skinner Nan Bowles

For more information please visit capelookoutstudies.org or e-mail krittmaster@ec.rr.com.

Click photo for large uncompressed version of photo.

Yang with Calf

Yang with entangled Calf

Entangled Calf

Entangled Calf

Yang’s (#1185) Sighting History
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
29-96,E 15-96,E 23-02,OC 11-02,OC 27-95,E 12-97,E 9-97,E 25-94,E
6-99,E 22-96,OC 7-98,E 19-97,OC
22-04,OC 25-96,OC 11-99,OC 19-98,E
8-02,OC 9-03,OC 19-99,E
19-02,E 25-04,E 14-02,OC
22-02,OC
25-02,OC
The entries under the month column headings indicate the day and year for which we have photos of “Yang” (ie., 29-96 under January means January 29, 1996), and general location (E=estuary, OC=ocean).

UPDATE: We’ve decided to name Yang’s calf “Yaholo” which is Seminole for “One who yells”. We’ve added a slide show from the pictures of Yang and Yaholo to the fishing line (monofilament) recycling project page. That page is dedicated to Yaholo – we hope that he will continue to “yell” through this page so that everyone learns how monofilament recycling can help protect wild dolphins.

Humpback Whale Sighting

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Cetacean Studies

Humpback Whale Sighting

Jan. 3, 2005

Today we encountered a humpback whale on our way to the NC Maritime Museum’s field station at Cape Lookout. The whale appeared to be a juvenile and was associated with menhaden purse seining boats that were encircling a school of menhaden. Volunteer John Russell got a great photo of the underside of the tail (“flukes”) which can be used to identify the individual whale.

Click photo to enlarge

Humpback Whale
Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale Flukes
Humpback Whale Flukes

Thanks for helping us to replace the Blazer

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

New wheels for the Cape!

Blazer

Thank you Donors!  |  Donor List

Blazer  It took a long-time volunteer and friend like John Brewer to know just what we needed in a vehicle for the museum’s field station at Cape Lookout. “Let me help you find a good truck for a great program” he said. And it took the thoughtfulness and generosity of the donors listed here. So when the Chevy Blazer (donated by Cherry Point MCAS) finally had to be retired this summer after 7 years of hard duty hauling people, gear, supplies, and dead whales at Cape Lookout, a loose conspiracy was formed to purchase a replacement vehicle for the Cape Lookout Studies Program. A

Blazer

 

fundraiser led by long-time supporter Haywood Holderness raised $8,945 from 36 people from 6 states. This enabled us to purchase a 1984 4-wheel-drive Chevrolet Scottsdale pickup truck. John then spent 10 days customizing it for the Cape by building a top carrier, installing a bumper push bar, taking out the carpeting and weather-stripping (they trap sand, salt, and moisture), replacing electric window cranks and door locks with manual ones (the salt air at the Cape is hard on electronics), replacing worn-out parts, installing large tires on wide rims, and painting it top and

Blazer

bottom, inside and out, with the most rust resistant coatings available. The result is pictured above. Thanks also to Kittrell’s Auto Parts in Havelock and Atlantic Auto Salvage for their help in this project. Thousands of students, young and old alike

 

 

will benefit from the generosity. If you’re feeling left out because you’re not included here, don’t worry, donations are being accepted for new projects!

Blazer

 

CAPE LOOKOUT STUDIES DONOR LIST –

$ 1000+ – DolphinRalph & Tabbie Merrill, Beaufort, NC
Bruce & Regina McCutcheon, Beaufort, NC
Bill Transou, Durham, NC
Bud & Anna Doughton, Raleigh, NC
$ 500+ – Sea TurtleHaywood & Mary Holderness, Durham, NC
John & Sandra Atkins, Durham, NC
Harriette & Hugh Wilde, Beaufort, NC
Tom Darden, Raleigh, NC
Steve & Pam Hassenfelt, Greensboro, NC
$ 200+ – PelicanGraham & Nora Barden, New Bern, NC
Sam & Nancye Bryan, Durham, NC
Mike Warlick, Stafford, VA
Jim Maxwell, Durham, NC
Woody Warburton, Durham, NC
John Brewer, Newport, NC
Margaret Harker, Morehead City, NC
Rusty & Mary Holderness, Tarboro, NC
Richard Meissner, Harkers Island, NCBlazer
$ 100+ – FlounderBob Barnhill, Tarrboro, NC
Alex Denson, Durham, NC
Ralph & Sue McCaughan, Durham, NC
Sally & Paul Ransford, Chapel Hill, NC
Sally Steele, Swansboro, NC
Penn Holderness, Orlando, FL
Nancy & Tom Reams, Richmond, VA
Dail Holderness, Raleigh, NC
Tom & Cheryl Walker, Longboat Key, FL
Elizabeth Kernan, Mill Valley, CA
Jack Jenkins, Morehead City, NC
Richard & Joyce Veazey, Stem, NC
Worth Dunn, Raleigh, NC
Mason Williams, Raleigh, NC
Sam Bass, Raleigh, NC
Keith Rittmaster, Beaufort, NC
$ 50+ – Fiddler CrabJulian Mann, Raleigh, NC
Walker Long, Chapel Hill, NC
$ 25+ – Mosquito
Blazer

Please help us replace the Blazer at the field station

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Cape Lookout Studies Program, Donate

Please Help us Replace the Blazer

**NOTE: This is an older post, the blazer was replaced forever ago, but the needs of the program go on, click here to see how you can help.***

After 7 years on the Cape our Chevy Blazer from the NCMM field station is dead. We are giving you an opportunity to help us replace it. Ideally we’re looking for a donation of a good 8-cylinder 4WD vehicle with big tires and a trailer hitch. If you have any contacts that might help us get one please let me know. Also, Haywood Holderness is leading a fundraiser to help us purchase one if necessary. We have $6,950 so far and our goal is $10,000 by September 10th to help us purchase a used vehicle. If you could contribute to this or know anyone who can, please pass this message along and send checks payable to Friends of the Museum with the donation form before
September 10th, 2004 to:Haywood Holderness
Westminster Presbyterian Church
3639 Old Chapel Hill Road
Durham, NC 27707Download and print Donation Form in
Microsoft Word format (19KB)
Download & print Donation Form in
PDF format (71k)

I will acknowledge and update all contributors. All contributions are tax-deductible. And just to make it fun, we’ve come up with contribution categories:

$ 1000+ – Dolphin
$ 500+ – Sea Turtle
$ 200 – Pelican
$ 100 – Flounder
$ 50+ – Fiddler Crab
$ 25+ – Mosquito

View Current Donor List

Please forward this page to anyone you think might lend a hand.

Thanks for your support,

Keith Rittmaster

UPDATE: This is an old post, and the Blazer was replaced! While we no longer need these wheels, the needs of the program continue. Please check out our donations page for opportunities to contribute money, resources and time to the Cape Lookout Studies Program.

Stranded Sperm Whale on Cape Lookout Spit

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Bonehenge; Cetacean rearticulation, Cetacean Studies, Marine Mammal Stranding Network

sperm whalesperm whaleOn or before January 30, 2004 a 33½ foot male sperm whale washed ashore dead on the west (ocean) beach of Power Squadron Spit near Cape Lookout. The whale was closely examined by NOAA scientists and NC State veterinarians and others to try and determine cause of death but none was found.

 

sperm whalePortions of the whale will be saved for research and education.

 

 

 

  • sperm whaleAdult sperm whales range in length from 50-40 feet, males being longer then females. The size of the stranded whale, 33½ feet, may indicate this whale was a young male just past the age of being weaned.

 

 

  • sperm whale

    tooth

    Sperm whales have long life spans, some living as long as 70 years.

  • The blowhole on a sperm whale is located on the left side toward the very front of the head.
  • Teeth occur only on the lower jaw of a sperm whale. Some teeth have been measured at eight inches in length.
  • Sperm whales are deep divers of the ocean. A single dive might last from 30 minutes to an hour in length.
  • Sperm whales inhabit both the northern and southern hemispheres. These whales migrate north and south with the seasons within their respective regions.
  • sperm whale

    atlas

    Squids of various sizes are the primary food of these large whales; the largest of all the known toothed whales.

  • Parts of the sperm whale were once used by humans, making this whale one of the most frequently hunted whales during the peak of the whaling industry. Spermaceti, an oil located within the large head, was used for heating and lighting purposes. Some Scientists suggest that the spermaceti is used by these whales as part of their sound system. Ambergris, a waxy, gray substance formed in the intestines wherever a squid beak, the one hard indigestible part of the squid, occurs. Ambergris was used in the production of expensive perfume.
  • As of 31 December 1994, sperm whales were listed as endangered and depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

sperm whalesperm whalesperm whalesperm whalesperm whalesperm whalesperm whale

 

sperm whale

spermaceti

sperm whale

hyoid bone

sperm whale

spinal column

 

 

 

 

 

Humpback Whale sighted off Shackleford Banks

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Cetacean Studies

Humpback Whale sighted off Shackleford Banks

On January 8, 2004 as we were running our bottlenose dolphin survey route along the offshore side of Shackleford Banks Nan saw something big in the distance. We quickly realized that we were looking at a whale. We changed our directions and went about a mile offshore where we saw a humpback whale heading south. Keith took these 2 pictures and we continued with our bottlenose dolphin survey.

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale

2003 NC Student Grants awarded

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Uncategorized

2003 NC Student Grants
Oct 21, 2003

photo007photo008
Photos by Keith Rittmaster

Congratulations to the 2003 “Protect Wild Dolphins” grant recipients and thank you for your good work.

Recipients are all NC graduate students doing research on bottlenose dolphins. The grants are to help them defray the cost of presenting their work at the Society for Marine Mammalogy XV Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals Dec. 14 through the 19th. in Greensboro, NC. Below is a list of the recipients with a short paragraph on how their research will help us protect and learn more about bottlenose dolphins. These grants are funded by the sale of the NC Maritime Museum’s “Protect Wild Dolphins” license plates.


Michelle Barbieri – UNCW

An assessment of seasonal changes in the dorsal fin surface temperatures of free-ranging bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Sarasota Bay, FL, USA

The observed changes in dorsal fin surface temperatures, which reflect delivery of body heat to the periphery via blood flow, may influence the ability of an individual to dissipate excess body heat. A better understanding of the adaptive physiological mechanisms used by bottlenose dolphins, specifically the role of the dorsal fin in thermoregulation across a broad range of water temperatures, will provide the knowledge necessary to guide decisions regarding the health, in the case of incidental beach strandings, and conservation of wild dolphins. Though the particular project I am presenting focuses on dolphins in Sarasota Bay, I am collecting data for similar research in the Wilmington, NC area in hopes that this may help us understand the physiological adaptations of our local dolphins to environmental temperature as well.


Kim Fleming – UNCW

Social structure and behavior of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in relation to shrimp trawlers in Southport, NC

Most studies of dolphin-fishery interactions focus on negative aspects such as competition and entanglement. My research takes a novel approach by looking at potential impacts of fishery interactions on dolphin behavior and social structure. Using photo-identification, I am evaluating whether dolphins that interact with shrimp-trawlers in Southport, NC differ from those that do not with respect to their activity and association patterns.


Leigh G. Torres – Duke

Bottlenose dolphins as an indicator species of ecosystem restoration in Florida Bay

Habitat quality is an important factor in the management of wild dolphin populations. This work links various measurements of habitat quality to the distribution ecology and habitat use of bottlenose dolphins throughout Florida Bay.


Erin Meagher – UNCW

Seasonal differences in heat flux across multiple body surfaces in wild bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)

The work I will be presenting describes how wild bottlenose dolphins are able to regulate their body temperature across a range of ambient temperatures. These data will hopefully provide baseline information that will be useful for monitoring populations of dolphins as global warming changes their coastal ecosystem.


Robin Dunkin – UNCW

Blubber’s contribution to buoyancy throughout ontogeny in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)

My work is going to help us understand the impact of changes in a dolphins blubber mass on functions such as buoyancy and thermoregulation. Additionally, it promotes the protection of wild dolphins by furthering our understanding of their basic physiology. This kind of information is a necessity for understanding energetic demands, potential natural and anthropogenic stresses, and a number of other parameters that influence the survivorship of wild dolphin populations.


Carter Morrissette – UNCW

Quantifying stereotypy of bottlenose dolphin signature whistles

My research focuses on quantifying features of bottlenose dolphin signature whistles, such as duration, frequency content, and inter-loop intervals. This work will provide insights as to what constitutes a single whistle, an issue that is currently quite controversial. This information could prove useful in situations where remote acoustic monitoring could be used to assess the number of dolphins in a particular area. Such a technique could be a valuable supplement to photo-identification for purposes of stock assessment and/or management.

Jerry, a stranded bottlenose dolphin

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Marine Mammal Stranding Network

Jerry, a stranded bottlenose dolphin

June 14, 2003

On June 14, 2003 I (Allen), Tabbie Merrills, Hugh Wilde, and Buddy Nance, were loading Spyhop at the old Coast Guard docks when Tabbie saw a dolphin swimming in the Bight heading toward a shallow area. As we watched the dolphin swam up to the shore. At first we didn’t think much about this because we often see dolphins in shallow water feeding. But when some kids approached the dolphin from the shore and the dolphin appeared to remain in the same place we knew something was wrong. We immediately placed a call to the Marine Mammal Stranding Network to report a live stranding.

After talking with the local stranding coordinator, Gretchen Lovewell, it was decided to seek the advice of a veterinarian with the NCSU veterinarian school, Dr. Craig Harms. As luck would have it the Dr. Harms had kayaked to the Cape earlier that morning to climb the lighthouse and just happened to check his messages. We were all surprised to see him come kayaking up.

As Dr. Harms examined the dolphin we saw that a shark had bitten it and that it was listing to one side. It was a big dolphin and highly unlikely to have been bitten by a shark unless it was already weak. Dr. Harms thought this could be good candidate for rehabilitation so the decision was made to transport the dolphin to the NOAA Lab on Pivers Island.

We loaded the dolphin on to Haywood Holderness’s boat and transported the dolphin to Harkers Island where NOAA personnel Aleta Hohn , Annie Gorgone, Gretchen Lovewell, and Ari Friedlander from Duke met us. We loaded the dolphin into the back of a pickup truck, covered him with wet towels and transported him to the NOAA lab. Four of us rode in the back spraying him with water. At the NOAA Lab we unloaded the dolphin into a temporary pool. Dr. Harms took blood samples for analysis and tube fed him some liquids.

It was necessary for someone to be in the pool with him at all times to help him keep his head above water to breath and to keep him from listing to one side. Tabbie started contacting possible volunteers and making an around the clock schedule. We had volunteers from the local community, NOAA, Duke Marine Lab, NC Maritime Museum, and NCSU School of Veterinarian Medicine.

It was also necessary for us to provide some fish for him to eat. Hugh provided some frozen spots from his freezer. Leslie from William Smith Seafood in Beaufort kindly offered to help provide fish for food. Keith also provided some food, trashing his best cast net in the process. The dolphin would not eat so Dr. Harms made a fish slurry and tube fed him.

When the blood samples came back it was obvious that we had a very sick dolphin on our hands, but nobody gave up. Dr. Harms contacted the NCSU Veterinarian School and 2 veterinarian students came down from Raleigh to assist. Dr. Harms did everything possible to help the dolphin and spent countless hours with him, but he was an old sick dolphin and it was his time. When he died 3 days later, on June 17th, it was a sad time for all the people that had worked so hard to try and save him. The necropsy confirmed that he was a very sick dolphin.

Thanks to all the people that helped.