Dead dolphins in Texas – 03/19/2007

  • November 26, 2013 at 6:55 pm #1426

    from bridget:

    An unusually high number are washing up along Texas’ Gulf Coast this
    calving season for unknown reasons.
    By Lianne Hart, Times Staff Writer
    March 19, 2007

    GALVESTON, TEXAS – An unusually large number of dead bottlenose dolphins
    have washed ashore near this Gulf of Mexico city in the last month, and
    investigators are looking at laboratory slides, satellite photos and
    anything else they can think of in their search for clues.

    About 180 dolphins are stranded in Texas each year, many from January
    through March – their calving season, when infants may die during birth
    or become separated from their mothers and are unable to survive alone.
    The 47 bodies found recently included many newborns with umbilical cords
    still attached. That is three times the number found during the same
    period last year.

    “Right now we don’t know what’s going on, but it is definitely
    significant, ” said Daniel Cowan, a pathologist at the University of
    Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. “Nowhere else in Texas is having this
    kind of problem. They’re coming in in multiples.”
    Investigators theorize that poisonous substances seeping into the water
    off Louisiana may have killed the dolphins, which were then carried by
    currents to the Texas shore.

    They are also scanning satellite images for toxic algae blooms and
    considering the possibility of morbillivirus, a dolphin virus similar to
    one that causes canine distemper.

    Cold winter waters can also kill dolphins, said Cowan, who is also the
    director of the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network, a largely
    volunteer rescue group operating along the Texas coast. Most of the
    strandings occur south of Galveston.

    Blood, tissue and other samples from the dolphins will be sent to the
    National Marine Fisheries Service in Florida for toxicology tests, Cowan

    In Galveston, scientists are conducting necropsies – the animal
    equivalent of an autopsy – and looking for signs of bacterial infection,
    wounds, disease or parasites. Results probably won’t be known for at
    least several weeks.

    The dolphin carcasses have been found from Galveston to Sabine Pass,
    about 70 miles to the northeast. Necropsies are conducted on the beach
    because most of the dolphins have been too decomposed for laboratory

    The dolphins are then buried deep in the sand, said Heidi Watts,
    operations coordinator for the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network.
    Last week the investigation spread to Louisiana, where the Coast Guard
    began aerial searches for dolphin bodies and clues to what may be
    killing them.

    “We’re checking out everything possible,” Watts said. “We don’t know
    what’s happening.”

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