New threatening skin disease in dolphins is tied with changing global climate

Scientists at the largest marine mammal hospital in Sausalito, CA, have discovered a novel threatening skin disease that is linked to climate change. This is the first time since 2005 scientists have been able to establish the link of the disease that is affecting many coastal dolphins globally. The decrease in salinity levels of water is said to be the culprit behind these skin diseases. This is a breakthrough discovery as it helps us to understand how climate change can impact the Marine mammals around us. 

The disease is said to cause raised lesions on the skins of these dolphins. It is said that sometimes it can cover up to 70 percent of their whole skin surface. The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports is said to be the first-ever freshwater skin disease in Bottlenose Dolphins. The study comes after the significant outbreaks of the disease in regions of Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Texas, and Australia in the recent past. On analysis, it was found that there was a profound decrease in salinity in their water regions. 

This is contributed by the increase in the frequency of storms and hurricanes, which are dow pouring excess amount of rains in the coastal areas. It is also said that these freshwater conditions can exist for long periods with intense hurricanes. With the impact of climate change worsening in the coming years, scientists believe that more such cyclones will shed excess rain in oceans, which will, in turn, affect more dolphins world-wide. 

Dunigan (one of the lead researchers in the study) said that this disease has been killing dolphins since the cyclone ‘Katrina.’ He further added that with a record hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico and more intense storm systems, we can expect to see more of these devastating dolphin-killing outbreaks. This study will also contribute to a major impact on conserving endangered species of dolphins like the Burrunan dolphin, whose population is already threatened. 

Currently, there is no sufficient treatment for these dolphins who are in long-term exposure to this freshwater. Further studies can help us understand the disease more and thereby save these amazing animals from danger. Besides, these studies will also help us to assess the full extent of damage to other sea-dwelling animals due to climate change.

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