• 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.

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!

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

Tale of Two Teeth quiz

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Cetacean Studies

Here’s a quiz:  The two teeth in the picture below are from two different 33.5’ sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) that stranded in North Carolina.  Both teeth are a #10 (10th from the front) tooth from the lower jaw.  Why do you think there’s such a size difference between the Pm 33.5 teeth M&Ftwo teeth?  Check back tomorrow for a hint.

Orcas trapped!

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Cetacean Studies

Spyhop to freedom!

Trapped orcas, spyhopping in the only breathing hole. From GMA, ABC news.

Check this out! Orcas in frozen Hudson Bay, trapped under the ice, catch a lucky break and make it out towards sea.

They were forced to spyhop out of a small “truck sized” breathing hole to look for another breathing spot. When the weather shifted, a passage opened up.

Click here to read the full article.

Whale adopts orphan

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Cetacean Studies

There’s an interesting story out of South Africa where a previously orphaned southern right whale calf has been filmed nursing from the mother of another southern right whale calf. The two calves appear to get along and all are healthy right now. It will be interesting to see if the behavior continues and if the health of any of the whales begins to decline. Hopefully, they’ll all make it through the coming migration well.

Click here to read the entire article by Pete Thomas of GrindTv.com.

southern right whale mother, calf, and orphan

 

Dolphin, porpoise, and mahi-mahi (dolphinfish)

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Cetacean Studies

The interchangeable use of the terms “dolphin”, “porpoise”, and “mahimahi” contributes to the confusion regarding the occurrence and taxonomy of three distinct species.  Dolphins and porpoises are marine mammals – warm-blooded, have lungs (air-breathing), and bear live young.  The mahi-mahi (Coryphaena hippurus) is a fish – cold blooded, has gills (extracts oxygen from water), and spawns eggs.

When fishing enthusiasts refer to “dolphin”, they often mean the dolphin fish, AKA “mahi-mahi” or “dorado”.  Mahi-mahi are fun to see and catch, delicious to eat, and if you see “dolphin” on a menu (at least in the US), that’s what you’ll be ordering.  When those fishers want to refer to the mammal dolphin, they often use the term “porpoise”.

The only species of porpoise we could possibly see in North Carolina waters is the harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena), generally dead, or dying, during the winter.  Their normal range is concentrated north of us.  Historically, what was/is referred to the “porpoise fishery” on North Carolina beaches, actually targeted bottlenose dolphins, not porpoises or fish.

Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) is the only species of dolphin you are likely to see healthy in North Carolina’s coastal and estuarine waters.  Dolphins grow much larger than porpoises, have a large, falcate dorsal fin, and have a prominent beak (rostrum).  Other species of dolphins occur further offshore, but that’s for a future post.

The graphic below will help clarify differences in the 3 species.

Dolphins stabbed/shot in the Gulf

Written by Tursiops. Posted in Cetacean Studies

One or more people in the gulf are killing dolphins. They’ve been found shot, stabbed and mutilated. To read the full story, click here.

To our readers who live or work in the Gulf of Mexico: If you see anyone interacting with marine mammals please report it!

“Tips can be made anonymously by calling DMR’s Marine Patrol dispatch at 523-4134 day or night, the IMMS dolphin line at 1-888-767-3657 or NOAA at 1-800-853-1964.”

Some people out there do some truly ignorant things.