The deaths of five bottlenose dolphins in the northern Gulf of Mexico have been linked to Brucella bacteria, according to CNN.
“We believe these five dolphins died from brucellosis,” Teri Rowles, coordinator of the National Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told CNN.
“Die-offs from bacterial infections could be occurring because the bacterium has become more lethal, but they could also be occurring, or be more severe, because the dolphins are more susceptible to infection.”
Severe environmental stress, such as exposure to oil [possibly the BP oil spill], could have reduced the animals’ ability to fight infection, Rowles told CNN. Right now we’re trying to pinpoint the cause, she added.
Another possibility is that the bacterium itself has changed so that it causes more serious disease, she added.
The BP spill is “only one of several things you could look at as a possible cause of reduced immunity or increased susceptibility,” she told CNN.
Government scientists have only tested 21 dolphins so far, but noted that they are investigating what they call an unexplained mortality event — the stranding of 580 dolphins and whales, most of them bottlenose dolphins — between February 2010 and October 23, according to CNN. The vast majority of the animals were found dead or died shortly after stranding, the scientists told CNN.
Full article: Third Age