Home > Explore Data & Reports > Temporal and Spatial Aspects of Bottlenose Dolphin Occurrence in Coastal and Estuarine Waters near Charleston, South Carolina


Speakman, T., E. Zolman, J. Adams, R.H. Defran, D. Laska, L. Schwacke, J. Craigie, and P. Fair. 2006. Temporal and Spatial Aspects of Bottlenose Dolphin Occurrence in Coastal and Estuarine Waters near Charleston, South Carolina. NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS NCCOS 37. Charleston, SC. 243 pp.

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NOAA Technical Memorandum

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The spatial and temporal occurrence of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the coastal and estuarine waters near Charleston, SC were evaluated. Sighting and photographic data from photo-identification (ID), remote biopsy, capture-release and radio-tracking studies, conducted from 1994 through 2003, were analyzed in order to further delineate residence patterns of Charleston area bottlenose dolphins. Data from 250 photo-ID, 106 remote biopsy, 15 capture-release and 83 radio-tracking surveys were collected in the Stono River Estuary (n = 247), Charleston Harbor (n = 86), North Edisto River (n = 54), Intracoastal Waterway (n = 26) and the coastal waters north and south of Charleston Harbor (n = 41). Coverage for all survey types was spatially and temporally variable, and in the case of biopsy, capture-release and radio-tracking surveys, data analyzed in this report were collected incidental to other research. Eight-hundred and thirty-nine individuals were photographically identified during the study period. One-hundred and fifteen (13.7%) of the 839 photographically identified individuals were sighted between 11-40 times, evidence of consistent occurrence in the Charleston area (i.e., site fidelity). Adjusted sighting proportions (ASP), which reflect an individual's sighting frequency in a subarea relative to other subareas after adjusting for survey effort, were analyzed in order to evaluate dolphin spatial occurrence. Forty-three percent (n = 139) of dolphins that qualified for ASP analyses exhibited a strong subarea affiliation while the remaining 57% (n = 187) showed no strong subarea preference. Group size data were derived from field estimates of 2,342 dolphin groups encountered in the five Charleston subareas. Group size appeared positively correlated with degree of "openness" of the body of water where dolphins were encountered; and for sightings along the coast, group size was larger during summer months. This study provides valuable information on the complex nature of bottlenose dolphin spatial and temporal occurrence near Charleston, SC. In addition, it helps us to better understand the stock structure of dolphins along the Atlantic seaboard.

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