photo: Sheilapic76/Creative Commons
Updating the story from three days ago on dead baby dolphins washing up at 10 times the normal rate on Gulf Coast beaches: And then there were 60. Initial reports said that 17 dead baby dolphins had been discovered in Alabama and Mississippi. Reuters reports that NOAA has declared the deaths "an unusual mortality event" and "because of this declaration, many resources are expected to be allocated to investigating this phenomenon."
Of the newly discovered dolphins, about half of them are newly born or stillborn calves, with a similar percentage being identified as bottlenose dolphins.
This is the first calving season since the Gulf Oil Spill for the estimated 2,000-5,000 dolphins in the region. During this time period normally just one or two dead baby dolphins are found.
Though none of the bodies showed outward signs of oil contamination, and according to Moby Solangi of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies most of the calves were too decomposed to conduct thorough testing as to cause of death, all eyes are turning towards the Gulf Oil Spill as being linked to the deaths.
Dead Dolphins Hint At Problems in Rest of Food Chain
After the initial bodies were found Solangi noted, "We shouldn't really jump to any conclusions, but this is more than just a coincidence"--now adding, "When something strange like this happens to a large group of dolphins, which are at the top of the food chain, it tells us the rest of the food chain is affected."