Date of Award

Spring 2005

Document Type

Legacy Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (BS)


Marine Science


College of Science

First Advisor

Robert F. Young


The occurrence, location, and associations of a small bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) population were observed and analyzed from February of 2000 until October of 2004 in the North Inlet estuarine system north of Georgetown, South Carolina. The system is a well-protected area that is home to a resident group of dolphins. Individuals and pairs of dolphins were observed and their sightings calculated. A simple ratio index (SRI) was created using the interactions of resident dolphins which were repeatedly recognized by photo-identification. The goal of this study was to determine if the North Inlet system is an important nursery area for mother-calf pairs, or more specifically, if mother-calf pairs were present in the estuary in a disproportionate amount compared to other resident dolphins. Results show that mothers and calves are present in the system in more often than other individual dolphins or dolphin pairs. Results indicate that 77.3% of the resident dolphins in the North Inlet were mother or calves and that they represented 54.8% of the total dolphin sightings. Resident dolphin sightings made up approximately 66% of total dolphin sightings. There were no significant seasonal patterns of dolphin occurrence during the study period. Potential hypotheses for the disproportionate use of the inlet as a nursery area by mothers and calves, which are not exclusive of each other, may include protection from predators, availability of food resources, and decreased energetic costs on the mothers.