Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Epperson, Bill

Committee Member

Reichley, Stephen

Committee Member

Moore, Debra P.

Committee Member

Morgan, Tim

Date of Degree


Document Type

Graduate Thesis - Open Access


Veterinary Medical Science

Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)


College of Veterinary Medicine


Department of Pathobiology and Population Medicine


Age determination of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) is a critical tool in understanding their health. There are many methods of aging dolphins including morphometrics, counting growth layer groups (GLGs) of teeth, comparing dentin to pulp cavity ratio on dental radiographs, analysis of the pectoral flipper radiographs, and epigenetic testing. The most common method for aging toothed cetaceans is the counting of GLGs in the teeth. Since there are many challenges associated with aging dolphins based on the counting of GLGs, a processing technique that results in better resolution of GLGs is needed. This is a two-part study that first compares different decalcification and staining techniques that results in the process that best highlights GLGs. Secondly, this study compares the results of aging via GLGs and pectoral flipper radiographs in 47 bottlenose dolphins. This study suggests aging by pectoral flipper radiograph assessment can more accurately classify dolphins by age class.