Dolphin murderers?

A dead dolphin washed up on one of Scotland’s beaches was autopsied by a veterinary team and BBC presenter and diving expert Paul Rose. He describes the fascinating, if somewhat gory business of an open-air post-mortem.

“If killed by an attack, the dolphin would have multiple internal injuries including bruising around the head and thorax, skeletal injuries including broken ribs and spine.

“Broken ribs can lead to punctured lungs. Ruptured liver and lungs can be the cause of death, if not it is often a combination of shock and respiratory difficulty from the damaged lungs.”

Andrew Brownlow is the veterinary investigations officer, at the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC).

Each year approximately 160 whales, seals, porpoises and dolphins are washed up on Scottish beaches, and it falls to the dedicated team at the SAC to investigate how and why they have died.

He said: “We try to find out why they died in case there are any diseases or pollution we should be aware of. It also helps increase our knowledge of these animals to make it easier to identify any potential threats to these creatures.

The report concludes:

“There are a few ideas from pollution causing developmental defects affecting their spines to attacks by other dolphins. These attacks are associated with dolphin infanticide.

“The reasons are not completely understood, it could be by females when there is food pressure or males to increase their chance of breeding as the females can mate again after only a few days once their calf has died.

“It’s a complex issue and can have a big effect on small populations of cetaceans.”

This behaviour seems a long way from the smiling, companionable and heroic friends who come and join us at sea, playing in boats’ bow waves.

See full story: BBC News

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