In a study published in PLos ONE, investigators studied a large die-off of dolphins in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. During the first four months of 2011, 186 bottlenose dolphins, 86 of which were very young perinatal calves, washed ashore from Louisiana to western Florida. For perinatal dolphins, this stranding rate was nearly 6 times higher than the average number of perinatal strandings in the region during the previous 8 years and nearly twice the historical percentage of total strandings. These dolphin deaths represent the largest marine mammal mortality event in the Northern Gulf of Mexico since 2004, when a red tide killed more than 100 bottlenose dolphins off the Florida panhandle.
What killed so many dolphins? Investigators point to a “perfect storm” of dolphins weakened by the BP oil spill, then killed by colder-than-normal water in the Gulf that took its toll on a vulnerable dolphin population. [Read more...]