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We have a new dolphin in our Cape May waters! On May 31st, 2016 during our 10:00AM trip, we spotted a pod of our residential dolphins. We recognized a few of the different dorsal fins, including our catalogued dolphin, Triscuit (Tt0008). While watching the pod feed, we noticed another dorsal fin that was very mutilated. It seemed to be sliced in half and had been a very rugged wound. After consulting the naturalist onboard, we realized it was not recognized from previous years and concluded that this dolphin was possibly new to our area.

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“Saltine” Photo credit: CMWWRC Database

While continuing to watch this pod of dolphins, we watched the new individual interacting with this residential crew. This dolphin was feeding with and socializing with the other dolphins of the pod, including Triscuit. Since Triscuit is a dolphin we see a lot in our Cape May waters, it was very interesting to see this new individual interacting so well with him. There were no signs of aggression or distress between the dolphins. There were at least four juveniles in this pod of dolphins, yet all the individuals in the pod interacted well together. This was very interesting because we have never seen this new dolphin with our residential pod before.

Another intern, Danielle Kroesche, and I were on the boat that morning during the spotting of this new dolphin. During this pod, Danielle was taking data while I was taking pictures of the dolphin’s dorsal fins. Since I had taken the pictures of the new dolphin, I had the chance to name it when it was added to the catalog. Since it was traveling with Triscuit, I decided to stick to the “cracker” theme, and named the dolphin, Saltine.

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“Triscuit” is a large male, also with a mutilated dorsal fin. Since the initial sighting, they have been spotted traveling together additional times.

Currently, I am working on trying to find out if Saltine has been spotted before. While referring to the Mid-Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin Catalog (MABDC) provided by Duke University, I am looking for notches and other characteristics on other dorsal fins that will match Saltine’s. I am trying to find out if this dolphin has been photographed before along our coastal waters. The mutilation of Saltine’s dorsal fin seems to be very healed over, meaning that it has happened several seasons ago. I am looking for fins that are also mutilated just as Saltine’s, meaning the dolphin has been spotted recently, as well as older photographs where the remaining portion of the fin matches, meaning it is a picture from before Saltine’s mutilation. While there has not yet been a confirmed match, I am still researching the dolphins in the catalog in hopes of soon finding a match.

– Samantha Malone, Virginia Tech University, Intern at CMWWRC

Have you seen this dolphin along the East coast?

If so, email Melissa Laurino and Samantha Malone at MellsLaurino@Gmail.com and sam8315@vt.edu.