We keep track of the dolphins of Sarasota Bay through boat-based photographic identification(photo-ID) surveys that occur during 10 boat-days each month. One of the primary goals of our monitoring is to track additions and losses to the resident Sarasota Bay dolphin community. Twelve births were recorded this year in Sarasota Bay, up from only seven last year. All twelve are alive and doing well as of this writing. One other female, 12-year-old Petal, has apparently shifted her range northward to the St. Petersburg area, and was reported by researcher Ann Weaver this summer as being accompanied by her second calf.One of the dolphin births reported this year was to a well-known resident 10-year-old female named Ginger who stranded on Siesta Key Beach in December 2008. She was rehabilitated at Mote Marine Laboratory’s Dolphin and Whale Hospital before release back to Sarasota Bay the following February. We have monitored Ginger since release and were excited to see her with a new calf, believed to be her first, in August 2015.
Sadly, we have lost six members of the Sarasota Bay community this year, through October 2015. Three of our oldest males were lost, including 37-yr-old F108, 43-yr-old FB78 (Riptorn), and 50-yr-old FB28. In addition, the community lost 24-year-old female F175 and two calves, including the third calf of Aya, part of a five generation
Our monthly surveys represent the core effort of our program, supporting all other projects. More than 46,500 dolphin group sightings since 1970 have yielded more than 138,000 identifications of more than 5,400 individual dolphins. In support of these identifications, more than 650,000 dolphin photographs are currently archived by the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program. Data from monthly monitoring surveys and all of our photo-ID efforts are archived in a relational Access database (FinBase) designed specifically for bottlenose dolphin photo-ID data and images. Work has begun to integrate this database with our focal animal behavioral follow database, which contains 2,262 follows on 165 individual dolphins from 19 projects during 1990 to 2015. This database now also includes current and historic opportunistic respiration data taken on potentially compromised individuals. We will begin integrating our dolphin health database in the near future as well. Many thanks to NOAA’s Jeff Adams for his continued support as our database guru!
We have been able to continue our year-round, monthly monitoring of the Sarasota bottlenose dolphin community thanks largely to support from the Batchelor Foundation, as well as the continued dedication of our core volunteers and undergraduate interns. Thanks to these efforts, this community remains one of the most-thoroughly-studied wild dolphin populations in the world.
This article appeared on page 21 in the December 2015 issue of Nicks n Notches.