Abundance of bottlenose dolphins in the bays, sounds and estuaries of North Carolina, USA.

Andrew Read, Kim W. Urian, Ben Wilson, Danielle M. Waples

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We conducted a mark-recapture survey of bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus in the bays, sounds, and estuaries of North Carolina during July 2000, using photographic identification techniques. During this survey we took 7,682 photographs of dolphins and, of these, 3,457 images were of sufficient quality for analysis. We identified 306 dolphins from distinctive nicks and notches on their dorsal fins. Eighty-six dolphins were photographed on more than one occasion during the course of the survey; one dolphin was photographed on four separate days. We then applied the results of our photographic analyses to several mark-recapture models and examined potential violations of the assumptions of these models, including an unexpected correlation between photo quality and mark distinctiveness. Our analysis suggests that our results are robust to possible violations of these assumptions. The resulting estimates were then scaled to take account for the proportion (0.46) of unmarked dolphins in the population. Our best estimate of the number of dolphins present in the inshore waters of North Carolina during July 2000 is 1,033 with a 95176 Confidence Interval of 860-1,266 (CV = 0.099). Most dolphins were found in the northern part of the study area, which includes the second largest estuarine system in the United States.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-73
Number of pages15
JournalAAPG Bulletin
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • Zoology
  • SIZE
  • Marine & Freshwater Biology


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