‘Leave Seals Be This Pupping Season:’ The Marine Mammal Centre Reminds Visitors

It’s that special time of year again in Northern California – seal pupping season!

As more and more seal mothers give birth to pups on local beaches, the Marine Mammal Center is about to enter its busiest rescue season of the year. Currently, more than 150 patients are at their Sausalito hospital and that number is growing every day. “The Center wants to remind locals and visitors alike that a great wildlife

viewing experience starts with giving these animals the safe distance to be wild and what they should do if an animal appears to be in distress,” a spokesperson for MMC said.

Last year, The Marine Mammal Center responded to 86 seals, sea lions and sea otters that had to be rescued due to negative human interaction across the Center’s response range. They want everyone to safely observe and “please save the SEAL-FIE for later.”

The marine mammal centre

 

Scientists Record Conversations of Mysterious Dolphin

The rare Araguaian river dolphin is a mysterious creature native to Brazil which researchers have long thought to be solitary. Because of this assumption, it was believed that the animals would not be capable of complex communication, given that their social structure does not require it.

But now scientists from the University of Vermont have discovered that the dolphins do interact with one another and can make hundreds of different sounds for the purposes of communication, according to a study published in the journal PeerJ.

 

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“We found that they do interact socially and are making more sounds than previously thought,” Laura May Collado, a biologist at the University of Vermont, said in a statement. “Their vocal repertoire is very diverse.”

Little is known about the Araguaian dolphins, also known as botos, because they are hard to find—as well as being difficult to approach—thus studies about them are limited. They only live in the waters of the Araguaia and Tocatins rivers and their numbers likely do not exceed more than one and a half thousand in total.

Fortunately, the research team was able to find a fish market in the town of Mocajuba where the dolphins often visit because people give them food.

Here, the team used underwater cameras and microphones to record the sounds and interactions between the dolphins at the market. In addition, they also took some DNA samples from the animals.

Gallery: The Most Fascinating Facts About Dolphins (Redbook)

Overall, they captured around 20 hours of recordings, identifying 237 different types of sounds. But even with nearly an entire day of material, the team speculate that the dolphins can produce more sounds than they recorded. Many of the sounds were short, two-part calls, which baby dolphins made when approaching their mothers.

“It’s exciting; marine dolphins like the bottlenose use signature whistles for contact, and here we have a different sound used by river dolphins for the same purpose,” Collado said.

amazr

The scientists also recorded the dolphins making longer calls and whistles, but these were not so frequent, and it is currently unclear what their purpose is. In bottlenose dolphin communication, longer whistles are used to boost group cohesion. But the researchers think the botos may use them for the opposite reason—to maintain distance.

The team say that the frequency of the river dolphin calls were somewhere between the low-frequency sounds made by baleen whales to communicate over long distances and the high-frequency calls used by marine dolphins over short distances. Collado suggests that the acoustic characteristics of their calls were likely influenced by the river environment that they live in.

“There are a lot of obstacles like flooded forests and vegetation in their habitat, so this signal could have evolved to avoid echoes from vegetation and improve the communication range of mothers and their calves,” she said.

The Araguaian dolphins were only identified as a distinct species in 2014, differentiating them from their close relatives—the Bolivian river dolphin and the Amazon river dolphin. While the classification of Araguaian botos is still up for debate, Collado notes that calls between the species show significant differences—Ecuadorean Amazon river dolphins are very quiet, for example.

“We need more information on these other species and more populations,” she said. “Why is one population chattier than others and how do these differences shape their social structure?”

Reported by newsweek

The fossil of a 43-million-year-old whale with four legs, webbed feet and hooves has been discovered in Peru.

Palaeontologists believe the marine mammal’s four-metre-long (13 ft) body was adapted to swim and walk on land.

With four limbs capable of carrying its weight and a powerful tail, the semi-aquatic whale has been compared to an otter or a beaver.

Researchers believe the discovery could shed light on the evolution of the whale and how it spread.

“This is the most complete specimen ever found for a four-legged whale outside of India and Pakistan,” Dr Olivier Lambert, a scientist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and co-author of the study, said.

It was found in marine sediments 1km (0.6 miles) inland from Peru’s Pacific coast, at Playa Media Luna.

The location has piqued researchers’ interest as the first whales are thought to have first evolved in South Asia around 50 million years ago.

As their bodies became better suited to water, they migrated further afield to North Africa and North America, where fossils have been found.

The latest discovery suggests early whales managed to swim there from South America.

“Whales are this iconic example of evolution,” Travis Park, an ancient whale researcher at the Natural History Museum in London, said.

“They went from small hoofed mammals to the blue whale we have today. It’s so interesting to see how they conquered the oceans.”

An international team of palaeontologists from Peru, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Belgium excavated the fossil in 2011.

They have named it Peregocetus pacificus, meaning “the travelling whale that reached the Pacific”.

BBC News

 

 

Educational-California sea lions

Every four to five years, The Marine Mammal Center sees a surge in the number of California sea lions that are admitted with symptoms of leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that affects the kidneys and can be lethal. If not treated, the bacteria can cause irreversible kidney damage.

The Marine Mammal Center is currently responding to the second largest leptospirosis outbreak on record in California sea lions. Read more about the current outbreak. For media inquiries, please email media@tmmc.org.

Leptospirosis is caused by a spiral-shaped bacteria called Leptospira. Veterinarians can usually identify leptospirosis in a patient even before laboratory tests confirm a diagnosis because of the infection’s distinctive symptoms in California sea lions, which include drinking water and folding the flippers over the abdomen.

Marine mammals generally do not need to drink water because they receive all the hydration they need from food sources. But when they are infected with the Leptospira , their kidneys stop functioning properly and cannot filter toxins or regulate hydration.

Sea lions diagnosed with leptospirosis are treated with antibiotics, fluids and other supportive care, such as gastroprotectants for stomach and intestinal ulcers. Unfortunately, even with treatment, roughly two-thirds of the animals that strand with acute leptospirosis do not survive.

However, research using data and samples collected at The Marine Mammal Center, as well as data collected from sea lions in the wild, indicate that many sea lions infected with Leptospira survive and likely experience mild or no symptoms of the disease, unlike the acute cases seen at our hospital.

Leptospirosis is a major health burden for humans, domestic animals and wildlife worldwide with over 500,000 severe cases in humans every year. Leptospira can cause disease ranging from infection with no symptoms to severe and possibly fatal disease.

The type of Leptospira affecting California sea lions at The Marine Mammal Center is a strain that has also been associated with pigs, skunks and foxes. It’s transmitted via urine, either directly or via contaminated water or soil.

Researchers haven’t definitively determined how transmission occurs within the sea lion population, but they believe it occurs primarily while sea lions are hauled out on land. The bacteria may also survive for short periods in seawater, so transmission may be possible when large groups of sea lions gather in the water.

When a leptospirosis outbreak occurs, our scientists study the disease to learn more about what causes an outbreak and how we can improve treatment for infected animals. Thanks to the Center’s 43 years of stranding records and bank of blood and urine samples, researchers have a unique opportunity to investigate the disease patterns over four decades.

The graph above shows the seasonal nature of these outbreaks, reflected in large numbers of California sea lions stranding and being treated at the Center for clinical signs of kidney failure. © The Marine Mammal Center
For over 10 years, scientists at The Marine Mammal Center have collaborated with researchers at the Lloyd-Smith Laboratory in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UCLA to study the dynamics of this pathogen in the California sea lion population. The Center has been on the forefront of research on leptospirosis in marine mammals and has published a number of scientific papers on the disease dating back to 1985.

Leptospira was first detected in California sea lions in 1970 during a leptospirosis outbreak that occurred along the coast of California, Oregon and Washington. And since the 1980s we have seen yearly, seasonal outbreaks with major outbreak events causing 100 or more sea lion strandings happening every four to five years.

The reasons for these periodic major outbreaks in sea lions is unknown, however our UCLA collaborators believe that a combination of factors may be responsible, such as changes in herd immunity, sea surface temperatures and sea lion migration patterns.

Interestingly, after 30 uninterrupted years of seeing at least a few cases of leptospirosis annually, the disease disappeared from the population in late 2013 only to reappear four years later. Researchers at UCLA believe the disappearance of the disease may be related to the highly anomalous oceanographic conditions that occurred during the same time period. The abnormally warm waters, commonly referred to as “the Blob,” may have caused changes in sea lion behavior and migration patterns as they struggled to find food sources.

Since 2009, the Center’s biologists and veterinary staff have taken blood and urine samples from wild juvenile California sea lions at popular haul-out spots in the San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas. These animals are then tagged and released, and the urine and blood samples help researchers learn more about kidney function and exposure rates among these animals.

This collaborative research project also relies on long-term demographic datasets generated by our partners at the NOAA Fisheries Marine Mammal Laboratory. These biologists monitor and track pups born on the Channel Islands every year. We also work closely with biologists in Oregon and Washington who monitor the sea lions in those areas.

Many different animal species, including humans and dogs, can become infected with Leptospira through contact with contaminated urine, water or soil. The Marine Mammal Center has a number of safety protocols in place to prevent transmission to veterinarians and volunteers working with our sea lion patients.

 

 

Source: https://viadolphin.com/research-information/

 

Endocrine disruptions found in bottle nose dolphins

Bottlenose dolphins are being exposed to chemical compounds added to many common cleaning products, cosmetics, personal care products and plastics, according to a new study in GeoHealth, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

The new research found evidence of exposure to these chemical compounds, called phthalates, in 71 percent of dolphins tested in Sarasota Bay, Florida during 2016 and 2017. Previous studies detected phthalate metabolites in the blubber or skin of a few individual marine mammals, but the new study is the first to document the additives in the urine of wild marine mammals.

Some phthalates have been linked to hormonal, metabolic and reproductive problems in humans, including low sperm count and abnormal development of reproductive organs. The study’s authors do not know what health impacts phthalate compounds may have on dolphins, but the presence of byproducts of the chemicals in the animals’ urine indicates they have remained in the body long enough to process them.

“We focused on urine in dolphins because, in previous studies of humans, that has been the most reliable matrix to indicate short-term exposure.” said Leslie Hart, a public health professor at the College of Charleston and the lead author of the new study.

Studies have linked human exposure to phthalates with use of products containing these additives, such as personal care products and cosmetics, but Hart said the source of dolphin exposure to phthalates is not yet known. Elevated concentrations in dolphin urine of a specific phthalate compound most commonly added to plastics hinted at plastic waste as a possible source of exposure for the dolphins, she said.

“These chemicals can enter marine waters from urban runoff and agricultural or industrial emissions, but we also know that there is a lot of plastic pollution in the environment” said Hart.

Understanding exposure in dolphins gives scientists insight into the contaminants in local waters and what other animals, including humans, are being exposed to, according to the study’s authors.

Gina Ylitalo, an analytical chemist at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center who was not involved in the study, said dolphins are good indicators of what is going on in coastal waters.

“Any animals in the near shore environment with similar prey are probably being exposed as well,” she said. “The dolphins are great sentinels of the marine environment.”

Ubiquitous contaminants

Phthalate compounds are added to a wide variety of products to confer flexibility, durability, and lubrication. Some phthalates interfere with body systems designed to receive messages from hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. This can disrupt natural responses to these hormone signals.

Tests for phthalate exposure look for metabolites of the compounds, the products of initial breakdown of the compounds by the liver.

“We are looking for metabolites. These are indicators that the dolphins have been exposed somewhere in their environment and that the body has started to process them,” Hart said.

About 160 dolphins live in Sarasota Bay, a subtropical coastal lagoon tucked between barrier islands and the cities of Sarasota and Bradenton on the southwest coast of Florida. The Chicago Zoological Society’s Sarasota Dolphin Research Program has tracked individual dolphins since 1970, monitoring their health, behavior, and exposure to contaminants. The dolphins are residents of the area year-round, across multiple decades, with individuals living up to 67 years.

In 2016 and 2017, Hart and her colleagues tested the urine of 17 wild dolphins in and around Sarasota Bay for nine phthalates. They found phthalate metabolites in the urine of 71 percent of the dolphins tested.

Hart compared the dolphin data to human data from the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which includes information about behavior and diet as well as blood and urine samples from a large cross section of the U.S. population. She found concentrations of one type of phthalate metabolite, monoethyl phthalate (MEP), were much lower in dolphins than in the human population surveyed by NHANES, but concentrations of another type of phthalate metabolite, mono-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (MEHP), were equivalent or higher to the levels found in humans.

“If you look at the primary uses of the parent compounds, MEP’s parent is commonly used in cosmetics and personal care products including shampoos and body wash, whereas MEHP is a metabolite of a compound commonly added to plastic,” Hart said.

Indicator species

Understanding what dolphins are exposed to gives researchers and the public a better idea of what is in the environment.

The study is particularly valuable because of the long-term data available on the Sarasota dolphins’ health and behavior, said Ylitalo. Bottlenose dolphins are good indicators of pollutant exposure in whales and dolphins that can’t be easily sampled.

“We will not be getting urine samples from killer whales in my neck of the woods,” Ylitalo said. “They don’t know what the health effects are yet, but if any group can do it, it will be these type of folks who start teasing it out.”

Documenting exposure was an important first step, Hart said. She wants to expand the sample size to continue investigating the extent and potential health impacts of exposure and start tracking down possible sources. Ultimately, she hopes this research could be used to help curtail the sources of contamination.

“We’ve introduced these chemicals, they are not natural toxins, and we have the ability to reverse it, to clean this up.” Hart said.

 

source

www.sciencedaily.com

Argus

Argus – California Sea Lion
Rescued: October 4, 2017
Released: October 25, 2017
Diagnosis: Leptospirosis

California sea lion Argus was rescued just a few miles from The Marine Mammal Center near a busy marina. Our veterinary experts determined that he was suffering from leptospirosis, a bacterial infection of the kidneys. Argus was one of several dozen California sea lions we treated for leptospirosis in 2017. Treatment for the potentially lethal infection includes antibiotics, fluids and other supportive care, such as gastro-protectants for stomach and intestinal ulcers. Once Argus had recovered fully from the disease, he was released back to the wild just steps from our hospital.

How do pink river dolphins reproduce?

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Reproduction in pink river dolphins start when a couple of dolphins mate to start the gestation period.

-This period can take from nine to twelve months when mothers give birth to the baby dolphin.

-Pink river dolphins reproduce at the end of October to the beginning of November, therefore giving birth between May and July when the water in the Amazon is at its highest.

Source: http://se7en-ila.livejournal.com