• migration;
  • water temperature;
  • coastal stock;
  • ecology;
  • Virginia;
  • Tursiops truncatus;
  • bottlenose dolphin


We investigated patterns of abundance and distribution for coastal migratory Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) that appear seasonally in the nearshore waters of Virginia Beach, Virginia. The study was conducted along 24 km of shoreline at the southern point of the Chesapeake Bay mouth from April 1994 to March 1995. This is the first study to investigate the relationship between the abundance of coastal migratory dolphins and factors that might affect their movement. A profile analysis of variance revealed significant differences in local abundance and distribution throughout the year. Dolphin number was positively correlated with water temperature and not correlated with photoperiod. Although prey distribution and abundance are two factors thought to affect dolphin presence, in this study the relationship between these two factors and dolphin abundance was unclear. Greater numbers of dolphins were found in the ocean section of the study area. However, significantly higher ratios of neonatal dolphins were observed in the bay section, suggesting the bay serves as a nursery area. The observed relationship between local dolphin abundance and environmental factors in Virginia may provide insight into dolphin distribution and migration along the Atlantic coast of the United States.