Oceanic Society's Marine Mammal Sightings in Belize 1992 - 2011

Oceanic Society

Dataset credit

Oceanic Society, CUNY Hunter College


Primary contact Eric Ramos The Graduate Center, City University of New York & Fundación Internacional para la Naturaleza y la Sostenibilidad
Data entry Connie Kot



In 1992 Oceanic Society began a study aimed at documenting the abundance, distribution, and behavioral ecology of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Belize. Our study site is Turneffe Atoll, a non-volcanic carribbean atoll ~40km east of Belize City with more than 200 mangrove cayes and surrounded by fringing coral reef. The atoll encloses a brackish lagoon whose shallow waters are the home to a population of bottlenose dolphins. To date more than a 175 dolphins have been identified in this region through photo-identification methods on surveys and follows. Studies on their abundance and distribution, habitat use, side-fidelity, and social affiliations have been conducted over the years since our work began.

From 1997 to 2001 researchers at OS conducted a study of the population of bottlenose dolphins located at the Drowned Cayes 8 km off the coast of Belize City. The close proximity of these regions suggested the possibility of overlap, yet only 3 were matched to both sites spurring more questions about the home ranges of dolphin populations in Belize. All research is conducted from small boats inside the atoll.


Photo-identification methods are used to track sightings of individuals who are recognizable through dorsal fin scarring. Some of our current research goals include the study of social and acoustic behavior in the dolphin population in this atoll conducted from small boats Of particular interest is the subset of the population classified as residents who demonstrate a side fidelity of nearly 20 years.

Located at the southernmost tip of Blackbird Caye researchers and partners of OS engage in scientific research on various aspects of the ecology and biodiversity of this complex and productive habitat. Some research has included the study of abundance and distribution of American crocodiles (Crocdylus acutus), sea turtles presence and nesting sites, and monitoring coral reef health. Antillean manatees (Trichechus manatus manatus) are also encountered in certain regions of Turneffe Atoll. Oceanic Society is partnered with researchers who conduct boat and aerial surveys for manatees.

Much remains to be understood cetacean abundance and distribution in this region as other cetaceans including Short-finned Pilot whales (Globicephala marcorhyncus) and Atlantic-spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) are occasionally sighted beyond just at the bounds of Turneffe Atoll.

Supplemental information





This section explains attributes included in the original dataset. OBIS-SEAMAP restricts the attributes available to the public to date/time, lat/lon and species names/counts only. Should you need other attributes described here, you are encouraged to contact the data provider.

Attributes described below represent those in the original dataset provided by the provider.
Only minimum required attributes are visible and downloadable online. Other attributes may be obtained upon provider's permission.

Attributes in dataset

Attribute (table column)Description
oidUnique ID number (generated by OBIS-SEAMAP)
obs_dateDate of the location (local time zone)
obs_timeTime of the observation (local time zone)
sp_obsSpecies observed
latitudeLatitude in decimal degrees
longitudeLongitude in decimal degrees
obs_countObserved count (estimate)
sp_tsnTaxonomic Serial Number added by OBIS-SEAMAP
geomGeometry field added by OBIS-SEAMAP
Marine mammals445
Sea turtles0
Rays and sharks0
Other species0
Non spatial0
Non species0
Date, Begin2000-01-30
Date, End2011-07-28
Temporal prec.111111
Latitude17.15 - 17.61
Longitude-88.14 - -87.76
Coord. prec.6 decimal digits
Data typeAnimal sighting
Traveled (km)0
Contr. through
Sharing policy CC-BY-NC (Minimum)
Shared with OBIS
GBIF (via DOI)
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See metadata in FGDC XML
See download history / statistics