Date of Award

Fall 2013

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Stan Kuczaj

Committee Chair Department


Committee Member 2

John Harsh

Committee Member 2 Department


Committee Member 3

Frank Moore

Committee Member 3 Department

Biological Sciences


This study examined whether bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) exhibit site fidelity to the Mississippi Sound and how the seasonal and diurnal behavioral patterns of dolphins that exhibit high site fidelity to the Mississippi Sound differ from those of dolphins with lower site fidelity. Opportunistic surveys conducted from July 2006 to April 2010 were analyzed. Statistical analyses consisted of nonparametric tests (Spearman's correlation, loglinear models, and Pearson's chi-square) to compare behavioral patterns of high site fidelity, mixed, and low site fidelity groups. Behavioral patterns significantly differed between site fidelity groups across seasons and diurnal periods. Feeding behavior was observed significantly more often in lower site fidelity groups, which coincides with seasonal prey species migrations. These findings suggest that lower site fidelity dolphins may migrate through the Mississippi Sound to pursue seasonal prey species. Sighting patterns of dolphins suggest the Mississippi Sound is characterized by seasonal migrations of low site fidelity dolphins during the spring and summer. Higher site fidelity dolphins that are potential seasonal residents and year round residents may also exhibit seasonal movements in the Mississippi Sound. Knowledge of the behavioral patterns of high site fidelity and low site fidelity dolphins may lead to improved conservation efforts for potential inshore and coastal stocks to ensure better population health in an area that is highly vulnerable to anthropogenic disturbance such as commercial fishing, boat traffic, and pollution.