Bottlenose dolphins in Hawai‘i

An adult male bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), HITt0201 in our catalog, with hook in mouth (trailing a monofilament line) off the west coast of the island of Hawai‘i, July 5, 2009, evidence that this population does interact with local fisheries. The reddish-brown material at the corner of the mouth is encrusting stalked barnacles and algae growing on the hook. This particular individual has a long track record of interactions with local fisheries, including aquaculture installations (see this report for more information). 

Bottlenose dolphins are commonly seen in shallow-water (<500 m deep) areas around the main Hawaiian Islands. Starting in 2000 we began studying bottlenose dolphins in Hawai‘i, first off of Maui and Lana‘i, but expanding in 2002 to O‘ahu and the island of Hawai‘i, and in 2003 to Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau. Currently, we have over 6,000 identifications of over 1,600 individuals in our photo-identification catalog, and data from 28 satellite tag deployments onto bottlenose dolphins! Below are photographs and information from this research, and pdf copies of publications and reports on bottlenose dolphins in Hawai‘i and elsewhere can be found at the bottom of this page.

Using individual photo-identification we have found high re-sighting rates of bottlenose dolphins around the main Hawaiian Islands, indicating the existence of four distinct resident populations (see this paper by Baird et al. for more information), which have also been confirmed through genetic analysis (see this paper by Martien et al. for more information). Recently, we have found that there are occasional movements between island areas, and especially between O‘ahu and Maui Nui (see this master’s thesis for more information). However, while these movements have been documented through both photo-identification and satellite tag data, there is no evidence to support a social link between resident populations. 

Bottlenose dolphin calf seen off of Kaua’i in August 2018.

 

Bottlenose dolphin mother and calf seen off Lanai in February 2018.

 

Bottlenose dolphin off Kaua‘i, November 23, 2006. 

 

Bottlenose dolphin leaping, December 10, 2006. Genetic analyses by Karen Martien and colleagues at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center have shown that bottlenose dolphins around the main Hawaiian Islands are genetically differentiated from bottlenose dolphins elsewhere, and that even within the main Hawaiian Islands there is evidence of four different populations or stocks, one around Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau, one around O‘ahu, one around Maui Nui, and one off the island of Hawai‘i.

 

A pair of bottlenose dolphins from the open ocean population, April 16, 2006. This group was documented 30 km offshore of the island of Hawai‘i in 3,754 m of water. Offshore bottlenose dolphins in Hawai‘i are much larger and more robust than the insular population, and represent a separate ecotype from the animals we encounter closer to shore.

 

Bottlenose dolphin off the island of Hawai‘i, July 5, 2008, with a deformed upper jaw. The upper jaw of this individual bends strongly to the right. The reddish-brown visible on the lower jaw are stalked barnacles, probably growing attached to the exposed teeth on the lower jaw, similar to the stalked barnacles that grow on the exposed teeth of beaked whales in Hawai‘i.

 

Bottlenose dolphin tagged with a suction-cup attached time-depth recorder off Maui. Unlike most species of whales and dolphins that we’ve deployed these tags on, to study diving behavior, bottlenose dolphins clearly do not like the tags, and are able to get them off within minutes.

 

References on bottlenose dolphins

  • Van Cise, A.M., R.W. Baird, A.E. Harnish, J.J. Currie, S.H. Stack, T. Cullins, and A.M. Gorgone. 2021. Mark Recapture Estimates Suggest Declines in Abundance of Common Bottlenose Dolphin Stocks in the Main Hawaiian Islands. Endangered Species Research 45, 37-53. Download PDF copy. 
  • Harnish, A.E. 2021. Population Structure, Residency, and Inter-Island Movements of Common Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) off O‘ahu and Maui Nui. M.E.S. Thesis, The Evergreen State College, Olympia. 117 pp. Download PDF copy. 
  • Harnish, A.E., R.W. Baird, E. Corsi, A.M. Gorgone, D. Perrine, A. Ward, and E. Sepeta. 2021. Common Bottlenose Dolphin Associations with a Fish Farm in Hawai’i: Long-Term Associations and Impacts on Other Delphinids. Document PSRG-2021-09 submitted to the Pacific Scientific Review Group. Download PDF copy
  • Baird, R.W., C.J. Cornforth, S.M. Jarvis, N.A. DiMarzio, K. Dolan, E.E. Henderson, S.W. Martin, S.L. Watwood, S.D. Mahaffy, B.D. Guenther, J.K. Lerma, A.E. Harnish, and M.A. Kratofil. 2021. Odontocete Studies on the Pacific Missile Range Facility in February 2020: Satellite-Tagging, Photo-Identification, and Passive Acoustic Monitoring. Prepared for Commander, Pacific Fleet, under Contract No. N62470-15-D-8006 Task Order N6274219F0101 issued to HDR Inc., Honolulu, HI. 
  • Apprill, A., C.A. Miller, A.M. Van Cise, J.M. U’Ren, M.S. Leslie, L. Weber, R.W. Baird, J. Robbins, S. Landry, A. Bogomolni, and G. Waring. 2020. Marine Mammal Skin Microbiotas are Influenced by Host Phylogeny. Royal Society Open Science 7: 192046. Download PDF copy
  • Harnish, A.E., J. Ault, C. Babbitt, F.M.D. Gulland, P.C. Johnson, N.L. Shaughnessy, K.A. Wood, and R.W. Baird. 2019. Survival of a Common Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) Calf with a Presumptive Gunshot Wound to the Head. Aquatic Mammals 45(5):543-548. Download PDF copy. 
  • Gill, K.P., R.W. Baird, and A.M. Gorgone. 2019. Prevalence of Fishery-Related Scarring on the Mouthlines of Common Bottlenose Dolphins Around the Main Hawaiian Islands. Poster presented at the World Marine Mammal Conference, Barcelona, Spain, December 7-12, 2019. Download poster PDF
  • Baird, R.W., D.L. Webster, S.M. Jarvis, E.E. Henderson, S.L. Watwood, S.D. Mahaffy, B.D. Guenther, J.K. Lerma, C.J. Cornforth, A.W. Vanderzee and D.B. Anderson. 2019. Odontocete studies on the Pacific Missile Range Facility in August 2018: satellite-tagging, photo-identification, and passive acoustic monitoring. Prepared for Commander, Pacific Fleet, under Contract No. N62470-15-D-8006 Task Order 6274218F0107 issued to HDR Inc., Honolulu, HI. Download PDF copy
  • Harnish, A.E., J. Ault, C. Babbitt, F.M.D. Gulland, P.C. Johnson, N.L. Shaughnessy, and R.W. Baird. 2019. Survival of a common bottlenose dolphin calf with a gunshot wound to the melon. Document PSRG-2019-17 submitted to the Pacific Scientific Review Group, Olympia, WA. Download PDF copy
  • Baird, R.W., D.L. Webster, S.M. Jarvis, K.A. Wood, C.J. Cornforth, S.D. Mahaffy, K.K. Martien, K.M. Robertson, D.B. Anderson and D.J. Moretti. 2018. Odontocete studies on the Pacific Missile Range Facility in August 2017: satellite-tagging, photo-identification, and passive acoustic monitoring. Prepared for Commander, Pacific Fleet, Pearl Harbor, HI. Download PDF copy
  • Baird, R.W., D.L. Webster, S.D. Mahaffy, A.M. Gorgone, E.M. Walters, and D.B. Anderson. 2017. Studies of dolphins and whales on and around the Pacific Missile Range Facility using photo-identification and satellite tagging: evidence for resident and non-resident species. Prepared under Contract No. N66604-14-C0145 from the Naval Undersea Warfare Center. Read the introduction
  • Baird, R.W., D.L. Webster, R. Morrissey, B.K. Rone, S.D. Mahaffy, A.M. Gorgone, D.B. Anderson, E.E. Henderson, S.W. Martin, and D.J. Moretti. 2017. Odontocete studies on the Pacific Missile Range Facility in February 2016: satellite-tagging, photo-identification, and passive acoustic monitoring. Prepared for Commander, Pacific Fleet, Honolulu, HI. Download PDF copy
  • Baird, R.W., D. Cholewiak, D.L. Webster, G.S. Schorr, S.D. Mahaffy, C. Curtice, J. Harrison and S.M. Van Parijs. 2015. Biologically important areas for cetaceans within U.S. waters – Hawai’i region. Aquatic Mammals 41:54-64 Download PDF copy
  • Apprill, A., C.A. Miller, R.W. Baird, J. Robbins, M.E. Niemeyer, G.T. Waring, A. Bogomolni and S. Landry. 2015. Comparison of skin microbiomes across 16 marine mammal species. Abstarct (Proceedings) 21st Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, San Francisco, California, December 14-18, 2015. View abstract
  • Foltz, K., R.W. Baird, G.M. Ylitalo and B.A. Jensen. 2014. Cytochrome P4501A1 expression in blubber biopsies of endangered false killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens) and nine other odontocete species from Hawai’i. Ecotoxicology doi: 10.1007/s10646-014-1300-0. Download PDF copy
  • Baird, R.W., D.L. Webster, J.M. Aschettino, G.S. Schorr and D.J. McSweeney. 2013. Odontocete cetaceans around the main Hawaiian Islands: habitat use and relative abundance from small-boat sighting surveys. Aquatic Mammals 39:253-269. Download PDF copy
  • Gorgone, A.M., R.W. Baird, D.L. Webster, G.S. Schorr, D.J. McSweeney and T. Cullins. 2013. Satellite-tagging and photo-ID provide further evidence of multiple island-associated populations of common bottlenose dolphins in the main Hawaiian Islands. Talk presented at the 20th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, Dunedin, New Zealand, 9-13 December 2013.
  • Baird, R.W., D.L. Webster, S.D. Mahaffy, G.S. Schorr, J.M. Aschettino and A.M. Gorgone. 2013. Movements and spatial use of odontocetes in the western main Hawaiian Islands: results of a three-year study off O’ahu and Kaua’i. Final report under Grant No. N00244-10-1-0048 from the Naval Postgraduate School. Download PDF copy
  • Martien, K.K., R.W. Baird, N.M. Hedrick, A.M. Gorgone, J.L. Thieleking, D.J. McSweeney, K.M. Robertson, and D.L. Webster. 2011. Population structure of island-associated dolphins: evidence from mitochondrial and microsatellite markers for common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) around the main Hawaiian Islands. Marine Mammal Science doi: 10.1111/j.1748-7692.2011.00506.x Download PDF copy
  • Baird, R.W., A.M. Gorgone, D.J. McSweeney, A.D. Ligon, M.H. Deakos, D.L. Webster, G.S. Schorr, K.K. Martien, D.R. Salden, and S.D. Mahaffy. 2009. Population structure of island-associated dolphins: evidence from photo-identification of common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the main Hawaiian Islands. Marine Mammal Science 25:251-274. Download PDF copy. The definitive version is available at Wiley InterScience
  • Tezanos-Pinto, G., C.S. Baker, K. Russell, K. Martien, R.W. Baird, A. Hutt, G. Stone, A.A. Mignucci-Giannoni, S. Caballero, T. Endo, S. Lavery, M. Oremus, C. Olavarria and C. Garrigue. 2009. A worldwide perspective on the population structure and genetic diversity of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in New Zealand. Journal of Heredity 100:11-24. Download PDF copy
  • Baird, R.W., G.S. Schorr, D.L. Webster, S.D. Mahaffy, A.B. Douglas, A.M. Gorgone, and D.J. McSweeney. 2006. A survey for odontocete cetaceans off Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau, Hawai‘i, during October and November 2005: evidence for population structure and site fidelity. Report to Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries, under Order No. AB133F05SE5197 with additional support from the Marine Mammal Commission and Dolphin Quest. Download PDF copy
  • Baird, R.W. 2006. Hawai’i’s other cetaceansWhale and Dolphin Magazine 11:28-31. Download PDF copy
  • Martien, K.K., R.W. Baird and K.M. Robertson. 2005. Population structure of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops sp.) around the main Hawaiian Islands. Presentation at the 16th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, San Diego, CA, December 2005.
  • Baird, R.W., D.J. McSweeney, D.L. Webster, A.M. Gorgone and A.D. Ligon. 2003. Studies of odontocete population structure in Hawaiian waters: results of a survey through the main Hawaiian Islands in May and June 2003. Report prepared under Contract No. AB133F-02-CN-0106 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Western Administrative Support Center, 7600 Sand Point Way N.E., Seattle, WA 98115 USA.Download PDF copy
  • Gorgone, A.M., R.W. Baird and D.L. Webster. 2003. Only 50 kms apart, yet bottlenose dolphins do not move between islands in the main Hawaiian island chain. In Abstracts of the 15th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, Greensboro, NC, December 2003. Download PDF copy
  • Baird, R.W., A.M. Gorgone, and D.L. Webster. 2002. An examination of movements of bottlenose dolphins between islands in the Hawaiian Island chain. Report prepared under contract #40JGNF110270 to the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, La Jolla, CA. Download PDF copy
  • Berrow, S.D., B. McHugh, D. Glynn, E. McGovern, K.M. Parsons, R.W. Baird and S.K. Hooker. 2002. Organochlorine concentrations in resident bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the Shannon estuary, Ireland. Marine Pollution Bulletin 44:1296-1313. Download PDF copy
  • Baird, R.W., A.M. Gorgone, A.D. Ligon, and S.K. Hooker. 2001. Mark-recapture abundance estimate of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus around Maui and Lana‘i, Hawai‘i, during the winter of 2000/2001. Report prepared under contract #40JGNF0-00262 to the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, La Jolla, CA. Download PDF copy
  • Schneider, K., R.W. Baird, S. Dawson, I. Visser and S. Childerhouse. 1998. Reactions of bottlenose dolphins to tagging attempts using a remotely-deployed suction-cup tag. Marine Mammal Science 14:316-324. Download PDF copy
  • Baird, R.W., E.L. Walters and P.J. Stacey. 1993. Status of the bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus, with special reference to Canada. Canadian Field-Naturalist 107:466-480. Download PDF copy

All photos are copyrighted and should not be used without permission.

Updated November 2021. 

Return to the Hawaiian Dolphin and Whale Species Page