Bottlenose Dolphins Likely Sick from BP's Spill
Comprehensive physicals on 32 of the majestic creatures navigating the waters of Barataria Bay off the shores of Louisiana revealed that many of them were underweight, anemic, had low blood sugar and/or symptoms of liver and lung disease. Half of the sample supported unusually low levels of cortisol, an adrenal hormone designed to promote stress response, metabolism, and immune function.
Adrenal deficiencies were not observed in dolphins from other study areas not affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
"The dolphins that we sampled from Barataria Bay are overall not in good health," National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist Lori Schwacke told reporters in a telecommunication press conference last week. "In fact, some were very sick."
NOAA marine biologists believe that some of the dolphins they evaluated in the August study will soon perish. One of the animals, which the scientists last had contact with in late 2011, met this fate in January.
Since February 2010, two months before the infamous spill, more than 690 dolphins have washed up on shores in the northern Gulf of Mexico. On average, only about 74 dolphins a year end up "stranded" on beaches, and the trend led to NOAA's declaration of an Unusual Mortality Event. Only 33 of the stranded animals have survived. Seven were transported to rehabilitation facilities.
--Ryan Jacobs / photo courtesy of NOAA