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.