LOCAL ABUNDANCE AND DISTRIBUTION OF BOTTLENOSE DOLPHINS (TURSIOPS TRUNCATUS) IN THE NEARSHORE WATERS OF VIRGINIA BEACH, VIRGINIA

Authors

  • Susan G. Barco,

    1. Virginia Marine Science Museum Stranding Program, 717 General Booth Boulevard, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23451, U. S. A.1
    2. Biological Sciences and Center for Marine Science Research, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, 601 S. College Road, Wilmington, North Carolina 28403, U. S. A.
    3. Department of Biology, James Madison University, MSC 7801, Harrisonburg, Virginia 22807, U. S. A. E-mail: ocrab@erols.com
    Search for more papers by this author
  • W. Mark Swingle,

    1. Virginia Marine Science Museum Stranding Program, 717 General Booth Boulevard, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23451, U. S. A.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • William A. Mlellan,

    1. Biological Sciences and Center for Marine Science Research, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, 601 S. College Road, Wilmington, North Carolina 28403, U. S. A.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Reid N. Harris,

    1. Department of Biology, James Madison University, MSC 7801, Harrisonburg, Virginia 22807, U. S. A.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • D. Ann Pabst

    1. Biological Sciences and Center for Marine Science Research, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, 601 S. College Road, Wilmington, North Carolina 28403, U. S. A.
    Search for more papers by this author

  • 1

    Address for correspondence.

Abstract

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.

Ancillary