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Study points to causes of high dolphin deaths in Gulf of Mexico
Date:7/19/2012

stress on the ecosystem and specifically on dolphins that were already in poor body condition.

"When we put the pieces together, it appears that the dolphins were likely weakened by depleted food resources, bacteria, or other factors as a result of the 2010 cold winter or oil spill, which made them susceptible to assault by the high volumes of cold freshwater coming from land in 2011 and resulted in distinct patterns in when and where they washed ashore," said Ruth Carmichael, a senior marine scientist at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, an assistant professor of Marine Sciences at the University of South Alabama and the lead author of the study.

The majority of perinatal strandings were centered on the Mississippi-Alabama coast, adjacent to Mobile Bay, the 4th largest freshwater drainage in the U.S. The onshore movement of surface currents during the same period resulted in animals washing ashore along the stretch of coastline where freshwater discharge was most intense.

Others who contributed to the study include: William M. Graham and Stephan Howden from the University of Southern Mississippi, Stennis Space Center and Allen Aven from the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and the University of South Alabama.

Worthy is the Hubbs Professor of Marine Mammalogy. He received his PhD in 1986 from the University of Guelph in Canada and then completed post-doctoral training at the University of California at Santa Cruz, where he studied elephant seals, bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions. He spent 11 years as a faculty member in the Department of Marine Biology at Texas A&M University at Galveston and served as the State Coordinator for the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

Worthy and his team at UCF have been studying dolphin populations in the Pensacola and Choctawhatchee bays for years.


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Contact: Zenaida Kotala
zenaida.kotala@ucf.edu
407-823-6120
University of Central Florida
Source:Eurekalert  

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