Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science

Degree Name

Marine Science

First Advisor

Amy Hirons, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Barbara Brunnick, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Lauren Nadler, Ph.D.


Marine mammal, group size, cetacean, behavior, resighting, half-weight


The coastal bottlenose dolphin is well studied throughout its natural range, however, most of the study areas comprised wide, well-protected habitats such as bays and estuaries, and not narrow coastal sandbanks. This study identifies a residential group of coastal bottlenose dolphins utilizing the narrow sandbanks within the Northwestern Atlantic waters off the coast of Palm Beach County, Florida, USA. From 2014-2020, 313 boat surveys were conducted, and 585 individual dolphins were identified using photo-ID. Twenty-four animals were determined to be full-time and 66 animals were determined to be part-time residents. Full-time and part-time residents associated in three social tribes, with encounters consisting of members of multiple tribes commonly observed. Association patterns were highly correlated to site-fidelity, indicating the presence of a unique residential group which regularly interacts with transient animals likely passing between Central Florida and Biscayne Bay. Future research within this natural corridor will focus on habitat utilization by residents and transients, and the behavioral nature of encounters between social tribes.


All research was conducted under the federal permits: LOA #13386, LOA# 18152 and LOA# 22291 of the Taras Oceanographic Foundation.