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Dolphins Decimated By Disease On America's Atlantic Coast

29th August 2013
Dolphins Decimated By Disease On America's Atlantic Coast

#DolphinDeaths - Hundreds of bottlenose dolphins have died in strandings along the east coast of the United States this summer - and a measles-like virus could be to blame.

As The Irish Times reports, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is currently investigating the extraordinary die-off, which has been tentatively connected to morbillivirus, an immune system suppressor similar to the virus that causes human measles.

In numbers not seen since the late 1980s, as many as 333 dolphin carcasses have been found on the shoreline between New York and North Carolina, more than 10 times the average for this time of year.

Researchers from universities and marine institutes are concentrating on the Virginia coastline, where the majority of the dead cetaceans have been found, and believe they have identified evidence of morbillivirus in nearly all sampled carcasses.

Wired Science says scientists do not yet know what caused the outbreak, though they speculate that dolphins may simply have lost their natural immunity to the virus since the last attack.

And according to the NOAA's Teri Rowles: “At this point, there isn’t anything to stop the virus.”

As of yet there are no indications if the virus could migrate to dolphin populations on this side of the Atlantic, particularly in the designated cetacean sanctuary of Irish waters.

Wired Science has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife
MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!