Spinner dolphins in Hawai‘i

In our study spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris) are the fifth-most frequently encountered species of odontocete, in part because the area outside of the harbor that we leave from on the island of Hawai‘i is a traditional resting site for this population. Of the 301 “on-effort” sightings, 55% of them are within a kilometer of shore, and 78% of them are in less than 100 m water depth. Overall in 22 years of research we’ve spent about half of our time in water depths of >1,000 m, yet we have only seen spinner dolphins eight times in depths greater than 1,000 m.

Since so much research has been undertaken on spinner dolphins in Hawai‘i they have typically been our lowest-priority species for research, but when we encounter them in unusual areas or areas not regularly surveyed we work to get identification photos. We have collected and contributed genetic samples to population structure studies through the University of Hawai‘i as well as to a study creating cell lines at the University of California, San Francisco, and have contributed photographs for a collaborative study of spinner dolphins coordinated through the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center.

Spinner dolphin spinning. Group sizes of spinner dolphins encountered in our study have ranged from lone individuals (associating with pantropical spotted dolphins) to an estimated 185 individuals, with a mean group size of 42 and a median group size of 27 individuals.

Some reports and publications on our work with spinner dolphins and our collaborations with others on this species:

  • Stack, S.H., G.L. Olson, V. Neamtu, A.F. Machernis, R.W. Baird, and J.J. Currie. 2020. Identifying Spinner Dolphin Stenella longirostris longirostris  Movement and Behavioral Patterns to Inform Conservation Strategies in Maui Nui, Hawaii. Marine Ecology Progress Series 644:187-197. doi: 10.3354/meps13347. Download PDF copy.
  • Howe, M., M.O. Lammers, and R.W. Baird. 2019. Participatory Science and Directed Survey Methods: A Case Study with Odontocetes in the Maui Nui Region of the Hawaiian Islands. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 20:101-109. Download PDF copy. 
  • Howe, M., M.O. Lammers, and R.W. Baird. 2019. Participatory Science and Directed Survey Methods: A Case Study with Odontocetes in the Maui Nui Region of the Hawaiian Islands. Poster presented at the World Marine Mammal Conference, Barelona, Spain, December 7-12, 2019. Download PDF copy. 
  • 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
  • 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 cetatceans 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. Abstract (Proceedings) 21st Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, San Francisco, California, December 14-18, 2015. View abstract
  • 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
  • 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
  • Hill, M.C., A.L. Bradford, K.R. Andrews, R.W. Baird, M.H. Deakos, D.W. Johnston, S.D. Mahaffy, A.J. Milette, E.M. Oleson, J. Ostman-Lind, A.A. Pack, S.H. Rickard, and S. Yin. 2011. Abundance and movements of spinner dolphins off the main Hawaiian Islands. Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center PIFSC Working Paper WP-11-013.
  • 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 cetaceans. Whale and Dolphin Magazine 11:28-31. Download PDF copy/files/Projects/Hawaii/Baird2006HawaiiodontocetesWDMag.pdf
  • 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

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

Updated January 2022.

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Got photos? We have photo-ID catalogs for several Hawaiian cetacean species! If you have photos that you would be willing to share, you can learn how to submit those to us at this link, or contact us at Hawaii@cascadiaresearch.org