Date of Award

Winter 2004

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biological Sciences

Committee Director

Mark Butler

Committee Member

Kerry Kilburn

Committee Member

Robert Rose


Bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus, commonly occur in fission-fusion social systems. For this study, I analyzed photo-identification data from 1994 to 1999 to describe association patterns of bottlenose dolphins in the nearshore waters of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Bottlenose dolphins are present seasonally (late April until early November) in these waters and individuals are considered to be members of the North Atlantic coastal migratory stock. I selected 78 individuals for detailed analyses from the 972 dolphins identified in the study area. Those chosen as “select” dolphins had been sighted at least five times in three of the six study years; all 972 identified individuals were included in analyses as possible associates. This study was the first to concentrate on purely migratory bottlenose dolphins. Social patterns were consistent with those observed for bottlenose dolphins in various habitats throughout the world, with individuals exhibiting a high degree of social fluidity with mostly weak and few strong associations between individuals.


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