RESIDENCE PATTERNS OF BOTTLENOSE DOLPHINS (TURSIOPS TRUNCATUS) IN THE STONO RIVER ESTUARY, CHARLESTON COUNTY, SOUTH CAROLINA, U.S.A.

Authors

  • Eric Samuel Zolman

    1. University of Charleston, Grice Marine Biological Laboratory, 205 Fort Johnson Road, Charleston, South Carolina 29412, U.S.A. and NOAA/NOS Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research, Charleston Laboratory, 219 Fort Johnson Road, Charleston, South Carolina 29412, U.S.A. E-mail; eric.zolman@noaa.gov
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      Present address: NOAA/NOS/CCEHBR, 219 Fort Johnson, Charleston, South Carolina 29412, U.S.A.


Abstract

Residence patterns of inshore bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the Stono River estuary, Charleston County, South Carolina were investigated as part of a larger effort to better understand stock structure of these dolphins along the east coast of the United States. Eighty-seven small-boat surveys for bottlenose dolphins were conducted from October 1994 through January 1996. Dolphins were sighted during all surveys. Approximately 304 h were spent surveying the study area; 64% (n= 196 h) of this time was spent observing and videotaping dolphins. A catalog, containing 112 individually identified dolphins was compiled. Thirty-two percent (n= 36) of identified dolphins were sighted once, while 28% (n= 31) were sighted five or more times. Nineteen percent (n= 21) of identified dolphins were determined to be year-round residents; eight percent (n= 9) seasonal residents. The majority (64%, n= 72) of identified dolphins were sighted in the study area during a single season or in two consecutive seasons and were classified as transients. This study documents the northernmost known site of a resident bottlenose dolphin community on the east coast of the United States, suggesting a complex bottlenose dolphin stock structure.

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