Nearly 300 bottlenose dolphins have been found dead along the Eastern coast of the United States as of August 20, according to the United States federal government. The high death toll, covering an area that stretches from New York to Virginia, has been labeled an unusual mortality event and many environmental organizations are currently scrambling to find out what is going on. Based on the traits of these deaths “an infectious pathogen is at the top of the list of potential causes” according to the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Experts are currently testing for a variety of “toxins, biotoxins, bacteria, fungi, and viruses” but a sure cause of death is still a mystery. Some of these tests take several weeks so hopefully the answer to this crisis can be figured out soon and then dealt with. The spike in deaths does though, follows a general trend in unusual mortality events that have occurred in recent decades in the United States. It is also important to note that the dolphins found dead on the shore only account for a small percentage of the possible dolphin deaths since for instance, many dolphin corpses decompose at sea or are eaten by predators after they are too sick to run away from them. This incident points to a larger problem that these deaths could be cause of human carelessness and if that is so this problem is even more important than what it is.Either way this is an unfortunate occurrence and hopefully this possible outbreak can be terminated soon.
Ecology and the Living World