NPR : News

Filed Under:

Mid-Atlantic Dolphin Die-Off Leaves Scientists Puzzled

Chuck Allen: http://www.flickr.com/photos/7475921@N05/2723537458/

Dead dolphins have been washing up in alarming numbers on mid-Atlantic beaches since July as scientists struggle to find a cause for the largest such die-off in a quarter-century.

More than 160 Atlantic bottlenose dolphins have turned up dead from New York to Virginia, says Charley Potter, a marine mammal collection manager at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, tells NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday.

Potter, who is working with a rescue team from the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center , tells host Scott Simon that the die-off involves "all age classes, both males and females" and that it "seems to have two centers of concentration – one in New Jersey and the other in Virginia."

While no definitive cause for the dolphin deaths has been determined, Potter says one possibility is the morbillivirus, a member of the same family of virus that causes measles and canine distemper.

Morbillivirus was pinpointed as a cause in a 1987 dolphin die-off that killed some 2,500 animals. Potter says it "has been found in some of the animals to date."

Scientists must now determine "whether or not the [morbillivirus] infection is something that's always been there and that we're picking it up because of increased surveillance, or in fact it's the smoking gun," he says.

Delmarvanow.com quotes Teri Rowles, National Marine Mammal Stranding coordinator with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as saying the suspect virus is "at the top of our list to rule out."

Rowles tells the news website that the virus requires close contact to pass between dolphins, but that some of the marine mammals have antibodies that protect them.

According to Delmarvanow.com:

 

 

"There are four near-shore populations of dolphins from New York to North Carolina, said Lance Garrison, research biologist with NOAA Fisheries.

There is an estuarine North Carolina population that also moves north into Virginia, a southern migratory group off the coast of Virginia and a northern migratory group from Delaware to New York. In addition, there is a genetically distinct, offshore population, he said.

The northern group likely will likely begin migrating to the coast of North Carolina coast in October.

The southern group, which will also [begin] migrating in October, moves as far south as northern Florida, he said."

 

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

 

NPR

Mislabeled As A Memoirist, Author Asks: Whose Work Gets To Be Journalism?

Suki Kim wrote Without You, There Is No Us after working undercover as a teacher in North Korea. She says the response to her book is also a response to her identity as Korean and a woman.
NPR

In Prison, The Passion That Drove A Yogurt-Maker To Arson Still Burns

The yogurt entrepreneur who set fire to his factory remains in prison, but he's in better spirits now. "He's dreaming again," says his wife.
WAMU 88.5

The Politics Hour - July 1, 2016

Kojo and Tom Sherwood chat with D.C. Transportation Director Leif Dormsjo and Virginia Del. Marcus Simon (D-Fairfax).

NPR

After Deadly Crash, Safety Officials Will Examine Tesla's Autopilot Mode

The fatal crash of a Model S that was in autopilot when it collided with a truck in Florida is prompting a preliminary evaluation of the feature by the National Highway Transportation Safety Board.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.