Interaction programs involving dolphins and patients with various pathologies or developmental disorders (e.g., cerebral palsy, intellectual impairment, autism, atopic dermatitis, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression) have stimulated interest in their beneficial effects and therapeutic potential. However, the true effects observed in different clinical and psycho-educational setups are still controversial.
An evaluation protocol consisting of the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS), Psychoeducational Profile-Revised (PEP-R), Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist (ATEC), Theory of Mind Tasks (ToM Tasks) and a custom-made Interaction Evaluation Grid (IEG) to evaluate behavioural complexity during in-pool interactions was applied to 10 children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The ATEC, ToM Tasks and CARS results show no benefits of the dolphin interaction program. Interestingly, the PEP-R suggests some statistically significant effects on ‘Overall development score’, as well as on their ‘Fine motor development’, ‘Cognitive performance’ and ‘Cognitive verbal development’. Also, a significant evolution in behavioural complexity was shown by the IEG.
This study does not support significant developmental progress resulting from the dolphin interaction program.
Gastric ulcerations in dolphins have been reported for decades. Some of these lesions were associated with parasitic infections. However, cases of nonparasitic gastric ulcers with no clearly defined etiology also have been reported in wild and captive dolphins. Considerable speculation exists as to whether dolphins have Helicobacter-associated gastritis and peptic ulcer disease. The stomachs of seven stranded Atlantic white-sided dolphins, Lagenorhynchus acutus, and 1 common dolphin, Delphinus delphis, were assessed for the presence of Helicobacter species. Novel Helicobacter species were identified by culture in the gastric mucosa of two of the eight dolphins studied and by PCR in seven of the eight dolphins. The gram-negative organisms were urease, catalase, and oxidase positive. Spiral to fusiform bacteria were detected in gastric mucosa by Warthin Starry staining. Histopathology revealed mild to moderate diffuse lymphoplasmacytic gastritis within the superficial mucosa of the main stomach. The pyloric stomach was less inflamed, and bacteria did not extend deep into the glands. The lesions parallel those observed in Helicobacter pylori-infected humans. Bacteria from two dolphins classified by 16S rRNA analysis clustered with gastric helicobacters and represent a novel Helicobacter sp. most closely related to H. pylori. These findings suggest that a novel Helicobacter sp. may play a role in the etiopathogenesis of gastritis and gastric ulcers in dolphins. To our knowledge this represents the first isolation and characterization of a novel Helicobacter sp. from a marine mammal and emphasizes the wide host distribution and pathogenic potential of this increasingly important genus.
The existence of nearshore and offshore populations of the bottlenose dolphin has been documented throughout its range. In several cases the two regional forms have been shown to be morphologically distinct, although there is considerable overlap for most characters. The populations off the eastern coast of North America have been the subject of a long-term programme of research on their distribution and movements. In this study, we compare mitochondrial and nuclear genetic markers between dolphins classified as either nearshore or offshore type. These putative populations were found to be distinct at both nuclear and mitochondrial genetic markers. Further, the level of variation among the nearshore dolphins was reduced compared with the offshore population. A broader geographical comparison suggests a shared lineage between offshore dolphins from the western North Atlantic and both offshore and nearshore dolphins from the eastern Atlantic. These results are consistent with local differentiation based on habitat or resource specialization in the western North Atlantic, and suggest differences in the character of the nearshore/offshore distinction in different parts of the world.
Data from behavioural observations and acoustic recordings of free-ranging bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) were analysed to determine whether signature whistles are produced by wild undisturbed dolphins, and how whistle production varies with activity and group size. The study animals were part of a resident community of bottlenose dolphins near Sarasota, Florida, USA. This community of dolphins provides a unique opportunity for the study of signature-whistle production, since most animals have been recorded during capture-release events since 1975. Three mother-calf pairs and their associates were recorded for a total of 141.25 h between May and August of 1994 and 1995. Whistles of undisturbed dolphins were compared with those recorded from the same individuals during capture-release events. Whistles were conservatively classified into one of four categories: signature, probable signature, upsweep or other. For statistical analyses, signature and probable signature whistles were combined into a 'signature' category; upsweep and other whistles were combined into a 'non-signature' category. Both 'signature' and 'non-signature' whistle frequencies significantly increased as group size increased. There were significant differences in whistle frequencies across activity types: both 'signature' and 'non-signature' whistles were most likely to occur during socializing and least likely to occur during travelling. There were no significant interactions between group size and activity type. Signature and probable signature whistles made up ca. 52% of all whistles produced by these free-ranging bottlenose dolphins.
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), persistent chemicals widely used for industrial purposes, have been banned in most parts of the world for decades. Owing to their bioaccumulative nature, PCBs are still found in high concentrations in marine mammals, particularly those that occupy upper trophic positions. While PCB-related health effects have been well-documented in some mammals, studies among dolphins and whales are limited. We conducted health evaluations of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) near a site on the Georgia, United States coast heavily contaminated by Aroclor 1268, an uncommon PCB mixture primarily comprised of octa- through deca-chlorobiphenyl congeners. A high proportion (26%) of sampled dolphins suffered anaemia, a finding previously reported from primate laboratory studies using high doses of a more common PCB mixture, Aroclor 1254. In addition, the dolphins showed reduced thyroid hormone levels and total thyroxine, free thyroxine and triiodothyronine negatively correlated with PCB concentration measured in blubber (p = 0.039, < 0.001, 0.009, respectively). Similarly, T-lymphocyte proliferation and indices of innate immunity decreased with blubber PCB concentration, suggesting an increased susceptibility to infectious disease. Other persistent contaminants such as DDT which could potentially confound results were similar in the Georgia dolphins when compared with previously sampled reference sites, and therefore probably did not contribute to the observed correlations. Our results clearly demonstrate that dolphins are vulnerable to PCB-related toxic effects, at least partially mediated through the endocrine system. The severity of the effects suggests that the PCB mixture to which the Georgia dolphins were exposed has substantial toxic potential and further studies are warranted to elucidate mechanisms and potential impacts on other top-level predators, including humans, who regularly consume fish from the same marine waters.
endocrine disruptors; polychlorinated biphenyls; immune suppression; thyroid; marine mammals
Bottlenose dolphins are one of only a few mammalian taxa where the males are known to cooperate within their social group in order to maintain mating access to single females against other males. Male bonds in bottlenose dolphins have been hypothesized as evolving through kinship and associated inclusive fitness effects. In this study we tested whether individually identified male bottlenose dolphins preferentially associate and form alliances with kin in a small coastal resident population of southeastern Australia using a combination of behavioural data, genetic sexing, sequences of the mitochondrial DNA control region and nuclear microsatellite markers. Males generally associated significantly more often than expected with one to three other males, with whom they jointly herded females for mating. Associations and alliance membership were not associated with either maternal kinship or genetic relatedness. The majority of male pairs within alliances were randomly related, although high relatedness values were found between males of different alliances in the resident population. These findings indicate that mechanisms other than kin selection may be foremost in the development and maintenance of cooperation between male bottlenose dolphins.
The aim of this study was an analysis of the time required to swim to a victim and tow them back to shore, while perfoming the flutter-kick and the dolphin-kick using fins. It has been hypothesized that using fins while using the dolphin-kick when swimming leads to reduced rescue time. Sixteen lifeguards took part in the study. The main tasks performed by them, were to approach and tow (double armpit) a dummy a distance of 50m while applying either the flutter-kick, or the dolphin-kick with fins. The analysis of the temporal parameters of both techniques of kicking demonstrates that, during the approach to the victim, neither the dolphin (tmean = 32.9s) or the flutter kick (tmean = 33.0s) were significantly faster than the other. However, when used for towing a victim the flutter kick (tmean = 47.1s) was significantly faster when compared to the dolphin-kick (tmean = 52.8s). An assessment of the level of technical skills in competitive swimming, and in approaching and towing the victim, were also conducted. Towing time was significantly correlated with the parameter that linked the temporal and technical dimensions of towing and swimming (difference between flutter kick towing time and dolphin-kick towing time, 100m medley time and the four swimming strokes evaluation). No similar interdependency has been discovered in flutter kick towing time. These findings suggest that the dolphin-kick is a more difficult skill to perform when towing the victim than the flutter-kick. Since the hypothesis stated was not confirmed, postulates were formulated on how to improve dolphin-kick technique with fins, in order to reduce swimming rescue time.
The source of reduction of swimming rescue time was researched.
Time required to approach and to tow the victim while doing the flutter kick and the dolphin-kick with fins was analyzed.
The propulsion generated by dolphin-kick did not make the approach and tow faster than the flutter kick.
More difficult skill to realize of dolphin-kick than the flutter-kick was postulated.
The criteria for how improve dolphin kick technique with fins were formulated.
Swimming; lifesaving; dolphin kick; fins; rescue tow
Cetaceans (dolphins and whales) have undergone a radical transformation from the original mammalian bodyplan. In addition, some cetaceans have evolved large brains and complex cognitive capacities. We compared approximately 10 000 protein-coding genes culled from the bottlenose dolphin genome with nine other genomes to reveal molecular correlates of the remarkable phenotypic features of these aquatic mammals. Evolutionary analyses demonstrated that the overall synonymous substitution rate in dolphins has slowed compared with other studied mammals, and is within the range of primates and elephants. We also discovered 228 genes potentially under positive selection (dN/dS > 1) in the dolphin lineage. Twenty-seven of these genes are associated with the nervous system, including those related to human intellectual disabilities, synaptic plasticity and sleep. In addition, genes expressed in the mitochondrion have a significantly higher mean dN/dS ratio in the dolphin lineage than others examined, indicating evolution in energy metabolism. We encountered selection in other genes potentially related to cetacean adaptations such as glucose and lipid metabolism, dermal and lung development, and the cardiovascular system. This study underlines the parallel molecular trajectory of cetaceans with other mammalian groups possessing large brains.
dolphin; Cetacea; brain; genome; evolution; metabolism
In the Florida Panhandle region, bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) have been highly susceptible to large-scale unusual mortality events (UMEs) that may have been the result of exposure to blooms of the dinoflagellate Karenia brevis and its neurotoxin, brevetoxin (PbTx). Between 1999 and 2006, three bottlenose dolphin UMEs occurred in the Florida Panhandle region. The primary objective of this study was to determine if these mortality events were due to brevetoxicosis. Analysis of over 850 samples from 105 bottlenose dolphins and associated prey items were analyzed for algal toxins and have provided details on tissue distribution, pathways of trophic transfer, and spatial-temporal trends for each mortality event. In 1999/2000, 152 dolphins died following extensive K. brevis blooms and brevetoxin was detected in 52% of animals tested at concentrations up to 500 ng/g. In 2004, 105 bottlenose dolphins died in the absence of an identifiable K. brevis bloom; however, 100% of the tested animals were positive for brevetoxin at concentrations up to 29,126 ng/mL. Dolphin stomach contents frequently consisted of brevetoxin-contaminated menhaden. In addition, another potentially toxigenic algal species, Pseudo-nitzschia, was present and low levels of the neurotoxin domoic acid (DA) were detected in nearly all tested animals (89%). In 2005/2006, 90 bottlenose dolphins died that were initially coincident with high densities of K. brevis. Most (93%) of the tested animals were positive for brevetoxin at concentrations up to 2,724 ng/mL. No DA was detected in these animals despite the presence of an intense DA-producing Pseudo-nitzschia bloom. In contrast to the absence or very low levels of brevetoxins measured in live dolphins, and those stranding in the absence of a K. brevis bloom, these data, taken together with the absence of any other obvious pathology, provide strong evidence that brevetoxin was the causative agent involved in these bottlenose dolphin mortality events.
Since 1987, large-scale mortalities of dolphins have been reported along the Atlantic coast of North America, in the Gulf of Mexico, and in the Mediterranean Sea. Autopsied bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus, which were collected from the large-scale mortality along the Atlantic coast in 1987 to 1988, exhibited opportunistic infections indicative of immune dysfunction. Further, these animals had high levels of chlorinated hydrocarbons, such as PCBs and DDT, that can suppress immune functions. The purpose of this study was to determine whether there is a relationship between chemical contaminant exposure and immune response in free-ranging dolphins. In June of 1991, peripheral blood was obtained from members of a bottlenose dolphin population that resides along the west coast of Florida. Peripheral blood lymphocyte responses to Concanavalin A (Con A) and phytohemagglutinin (PHA) were determined in vitro and compared by regression analysis with contaminant concentrations in whole blood from a small subset of these animals (n = 5). These data indicate that a reduced immune response in these bottlenose dolphins was correlated with increasing whole blood concentrations of several contaminants. Specifically, inverse correlations were found between Con A-induced lymphocyte proliferation and tetrachlorinated to octachlorinated biphenyls (r2 values ranged from 0.70 to 0.87). Con A-induced lymphocyte responses also correlated inversely with p,p'DDT (r2 values of 0.73 and 0.79); o.p'-DDE (r2 values of 0.93 and 0.96); and p,p'-DDE (r2 values of 0.73 and 0.81).
Diverse and localized foraging behaviours have been reported in isolated populations of many animal species around the world. In Laguna, southern Brazil, a subset of resident bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) uses a foraging tactic involving cooperative interactions with local, beach-casting fishermen. We used individual photo-identification data to assess whether cooperative and non-cooperative dolphins were socially segregated. The social structure of the population was found to be a fission–fusion system with few non-random associations, typical for this species. However, association values were greater among cooperative dolphins than among non-cooperative dolphins or between dolphins from different foraging classes. Furthermore, the dolphin social network was divided into three modules, clustering individuals that shared or lacked the cooperative foraging tactic. Space-use patterns were not sufficient to explain this partitioning, indicating a behavioural factor. The segregation of dolphins using different foraging tactics could result from foraging behaviour driving social structure, while the closer association between dolphins engaged in the cooperation could facilitate the transmission and learning of this behavioural trait from conspecifics. This unique case of a dolphin–human interaction represents a valuable opportunity to explore hypotheses on the role of social learning in wild cetaceans.
Tursiops truncatus; cooperative behaviour; artisanal fishermen; foraging tactics; social learning
In humans, ammonium urate (AU) nephrolithiasis is rare in the Western hemisphere and more common in Japan and developing countries. Among a variety of risk factors, insulin resistance has been associated with urate nephrolithiasis in people. Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) are susceptible to AU nephrolithiasis, and it is believed that some populations are more likely to develop nephrolithiasis compared to others. In an effort to better understand population-based risk factors for AU nephrolithiasis in dolphins and their comparative value to humans, sonographic evaluation was performed on dolphins from a managed collection in San Diego Bay, CA (n = 40) and dolphins from a free-ranging, nearshore population in Sarasota Bay, FL (n = 39) to look for evidence of nephrolithiasis. While 14 (35%) of San Diego Bay dolphins evaluated for the study had sonographic evidence of nephrolithiasis, none of the Sarasota Bay dolphins had evidence of disease. Presence or absence of stones was confirmed by computed tomography in a subset of the San Diego collection (n = 10; four dolphins with stones, six without stones). Age was identified as a risk factor, as dolphins with stones in the San Diego collection were significantly older than dolphins without stones (25.4 vs. 19.1 years, respectively; P = 0.04). Additionally, San Diego dolphins included in the study were significantly older than Sarasota Bay dolphins (21.3 vs. 13.8 years, respectively; P = 0.008). In addition to the previously reported risk factors of hypocitraturia and hyperinsulinemia in bottlenose dolphins, other potential factors include geographic location, managed vs. free-ranging status, prey species, and feeding schedules.
urate nephrolithiasis; dolphins; Tursiops truncatus; ultrasound; computed tomography; age
Lacazia loboi, a cutaneous fungus, is found in humans and dolphins from transitional tropical (Florida) and tropical (South America) regions. We report 2 cases of lobomycosis in stranded bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and 1 case of lobomycosis-like disease in 1 free-swimming, pelagic, offshore bottlenose dolphin from North Carolina, where no cases have previously been observed.
Dolphin; Tursiops truncatus; Lacazia loboi; lobomycosis; granulomatous dermatitis; North America; North Carolina; dispatch
A diversity of hypotheses have been proposed based on both morphological and molecular data to reveal phylogenetic relationships within the order Cetacea (dolphins, porpoises, and whales), and great progress has been made in the past two decades. However, there is still some controversy concerning relationships among certain cetacean taxa such as river dolphins and delphinoid species, which needs to be further addressed with more markers in an effort to address unresolved portions of the phylogeny.
An analysis of additional SINE insertions and SINE-flanking sequences supported the monophyly of the order Cetacea as well as Odontocete, Delphinoidea (Delphinidae + Phocoenidae + Mondontidae), and Delphinidae. A sister relationship between Delphinidae and Phocoenidae + Mondontidae was supported, and members of classical river dolphins and the genera Tursiops and Stenella were found to be paraphyletic. Estimates of divergence times revealed rapid divergences of basal Odontocete lineages in the Oligocene and Early Miocene, and a recent rapid diversification of Delphinidae in the Middle-Late Miocene and Pliocene within a narrow time frame.
Several novel SINEs were found to differentiate Delphinidae from the other two families (Monodontidae and Phocoenidae), whereas the sister grouping of the latter two families with exclusion of Delphinidae was further revealed using the SINE-flanking sequences. Interestingly, some anomalous PCR amplification patterns of SINE insertions were detected, which can be explained as the result of potential ancestral SINE polymorphisms and incomplete lineage sorting. Although a few loci were potentially anomalous, this study demonstrated that the SINE-based approach is a powerful tool in phylogenetic studies. Identifying additional SINE elements that resolve the relationships in the superfamily Delphinoidea and family Delphinidae will be important steps forward in completely resolving cetacean phylogenetic relationships in the future.
The dusky dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) is distributed along temperate, coastal regions of New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, and Peru where it feeds on schooling anchovy, sardines, and other small fishes and squid tightly associated with temperate ocean sea surface temperatures. Previous studies have suggested that the dusky dolphin dispersed in the Southern Hemisphere eastward from Peru via a linear, temperate dispersal corridor provided by the circumpolar west-wind drift. With new mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequence data, we propose an alternative phylogeographic history for the dusky dolphin that was structured by paleoceanographic conditions that repeatedly altered the distribution of its temperate prey species during the Plio-Pleistocene.
In contrast to the west-wind drift hypothesis, phylogenetic analyses support a Pacific/Indian Ocean origin, with a relatively early and continued isolation of Peru from other regions. Dispersal of the dusky dolphin into the Atlantic is correlated with the history of anchovy populations, including multiple migrations from New Zealand to South Africa. Additionally, the cooling of the Eastern Equatorial Pacific led to the divergence of anchovy populations, which in turn explains the north-south equatorial transgression of L. obliquidens and the subsequent divergence of L. obscurus in the Southern Hemisphere.
Overall, our study fails to support the west-wind drift hypothesis. Instead, our data indicate that changes in primary productivity and related abundance of prey played a key role in shaping the phylogeography of the dusky dolphin, with periods of ocean change coincident with important events in the history of this temperate dolphin species. Moderate, short-term changes in sea surface temperatures and current systems have a powerful effect on anchovy populations; thus, it is not infeasible that repeated fluctuations in anchovy populations continue to play an important role in the history of coastal dolphin populations.
Apart from findings on both functional and motor asymmetries in captive aquatic mammals, only few studies have focused on lateralized behaviour of these species in the wild.
In this study we focused on lateralized visual behaviour by presenting wild striped dolphins with objects of different degrees of familiarity (fish, ball, toy). Surveys were conducted in the Gulf of Taranto, the northern Ionian Sea portion delimited by the Italian regions of Calabria, Basilicata and Apulia. After sighting striped dolphins from a research vessel, different stimuli were presented in a random order by a telescopic bar connected to the prow of the boat. The preferential use of the right/left monocular viewing during inspection of the stimuli was analysed.
Results clearly showed a monocular viewing preference with respect to the type of the stimulus employed. Due to the complete decussation of the optical nerves in dolphin brain our results reflected a different specialization of brain hemispheres for visual scanning processes confirming that in this species different stimuli evoked different patterns of eye use. A preferential use of the right eye (left hemisphere) during visual inspection of unfamiliar targets was observed supporting the hypothesis that, in dolphins, the organization of the functional neural structures which reflected cerebral asymmetries for visual object recognition could have been subjected to a deviation from the evolutionary line of most terrestrial vertebrates.
From an evolutionary perspective, the ancestors of cetaceans first lived in terrestrial environments prior to adapting to aquatic environments. Whereas anatomical and morphological adaptations to aquatic environments have been well studied, few studies have focused on physiological changes. We focused on plasma amino acid concentrations (aminograms) since they show distinct patterns under various physiological conditions. Plasma and urine aminograms were obtained from bottlenose dolphins, pacific white-sided dolphins, Risso's dolphins, false-killer whales and C57BL/6J and ICR mice. Hierarchical cluster analyses were employed to uncover a multitude of amino acid relationships among different species, which can help us understand the complex interrelations comprising metabolic adaptations. The cetacean aminograms formed a cluster that was markedly distinguishable from the mouse cluster, indicating that cetaceans and terrestrial mammals have quite different metabolic machinery for amino acids. Levels of carnosine and 3-methylhistidine, both of which are antioxidants, were substantially higher in cetaceans. Urea was markedly elevated in cetaceans, whereas the level of urea cycle-related amino acids was lower. Because diving mammals must cope with high rates of reactive oxygen species generation due to alterations in apnea/reoxygenation and ischemia-reperfusion processes, high concentrations of antioxidative amino acids are advantageous. Moreover, shifting the set point of urea cycle may be an adaption used for body water conservation in the hyperosmotic sea water environment, because urea functions as a major blood osmolyte. Furthermore, since dolphins are kept in many aquariums for observation, the evaluation of these aminograms may provide useful diagnostic indices for the assessment of cetacean health in artificial environments in the future.
Terrestrial mammals with differentiated social relationships live in ‘semi-closed groups’ that occasionally accept new members emigrating from other groups. Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops sp.) in Shark Bay, Western Australia, exhibit a fission–fusion grouping pattern with strongly differentiated relationships, including nested male alliances. Previous studies failed to detect a group membership ‘boundary’, suggesting that the dolphins live in an open social network. However, two alternative hypotheses have not been excluded. The community defence model posits that the dolphins live in a large semi-closed ‘chimpanzee-like’ community defended by males and predicts that a dominant alliance(s) will range over the entire community range. The mating season defence model predicts that alliances will defend mating-season territories or sets of females. Here, both models are tested and rejected: no alliances ranged over the entire community range and alliances showed extensive overlap in mating season ranges and consorted females. The Shark Bay dolphins, therefore, present a combination of traits that is unique among mammals: complex male alliances in an open social network. The open social network of dolphins is linked to their relatively low costs of locomotion. This reveals a surprising and previously unrecognized convergence between adaptations reducing travel costs and complex intergroup–alliance relationships in dolphins, elephants and humans.
alliances; ranges; social structure; social organization
The phylogeny of Cetacea (whales) is not fully resolved with substantial support. The ambiguous and conflicting results of multiple phylogenetic studies may be the result of the use of too little data, phylogenetic methods that do not adequately capture the complex nature of DNA evolution, or both. In addition, there is also evidence that the generic taxonomy of Delphinidae (dolphins) underestimates its diversity. To remedy these problems, we sequenced the complete mitochondrial genomes of seven dolphins and analyzed these data with partitioned Bayesian analyses. Moreover, we incorporate a newly-developed "relaxed" molecular clock to model heterogenous rates of evolution among cetacean lineages.
The "deep" phylogenetic relationships are well supported including the monophyly of Cetacea and Odontoceti. However, there is ambiguity in the phylogenetic affinities of two of the river dolphin clades Platanistidae (Indian River dolphins) and Lipotidae (Yangtze River dolphins). The phylogenetic analyses support a sister relationship between Delphinidae and Monodontidae + Phocoenidae. Additionally, there is statistically significant support for the paraphyly of Tursiops (bottlenose dolphins) and Stenella (spotted dolphins).
Our phylogenetic analysis of complete mitochondrial genomes using recently developed models of rate autocorrelation resolved the phylogenetic relationships of the major Cetacean lineages with a high degree of confidence. Our results indicate that a rapid radiation of lineages explains the lack of support the placement of Platanistidae and Lipotidae. Moreover, our estimation of molecular divergence dates indicates that these radiations occurred in the Middle to Late Oligocene and Middle Miocene, respectively. Furthermore, by collecting and analyzing seven new mitochondrial genomes, we provide strong evidence that the delphinid genera Tursiops and Stenella are not monophyletic, and the current taxonomy masks potentially interesting patterns of morphological, physiological, behavioral, and ecological evolution.
The recent industrial boom along the Australian coastline has increased concerns about the long term conservation of snubfin dolphins along the Queensland coast. National assessment of the conservation status and management of the Australian snubfin dolphin is currently hindered by the lack of adequate biological and ecological information throughout most of its range. In response to the issue of determining the conservation status of species with broad ranges, the IUCN has provided a framework for assessing the threatened status of regional populations. In this study we assessed the conservation status of a small geographically isolated population of snubfin dolphins living in the Fitzroy River region, Queensland, Australia, against the IUCN criteria for regional populations. A review of all available sightings data and stranding information indicates that this is the southernmost resident population of snubfin dolphins in Australian waters. The Fitzroy River snubfin dolphin population is composed of less than 100 individuals, with a representative range and core area of less than 400 and 300 km2 respectively. The area most often used by snubfin dolphins within the representative range and core area was estimated to be about 292 and 191 km2, respectively. A decrease in representative range, core area and preferred habitat between 14 and 25% is projected to occur if a planned industrial port development were to occur. These results are robust to uncertainty and considering the low level of formal protection and future threats, a classification of this subpopulation under the IUCN Red List as “Endangered” is appropriate.
Toothed whales (Cetacea, odontoceti) use biosonar to navigate their environment and to find and catch prey. All studied toothed whale species have evolved highly directional, high-amplitude ultrasonic clicks suited for long-range echolocation of prey in open water. Little is known about the biosonar signals of toothed whale species inhabiting freshwater habitats such as endangered river dolphins. To address the evolutionary pressures shaping the echolocation signal parameters of non-marine toothed whales, we investigated the biosonar source parameters of Ganges river dolphins (Platanista gangetica gangetica) and Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) within the river systems of the Sundarban mangrove forest. Both Ganges and Irrawaddy dolphins produced echolocation clicks with a high repetition rate and low source level compared to marine species. Irrawaddy dolphins, inhabiting coastal and riverine habitats, produced a mean source level of 195 dB (max 203 dB) re 1 µPapp whereas Ganges river dolphins, living exclusively upriver, produced a mean source level of 184 dB (max 191) re 1 µPapp. These source levels are 1–2 orders of magnitude lower than those of similar sized marine delphinids and may reflect an adaptation to a shallow, acoustically complex freshwater habitat with high reverberation and acoustic clutter. The centroid frequency of Ganges river dolphin clicks are an octave lower than predicted from scaling, but with an estimated beamwidth comparable to that of porpoises. The unique bony maxillary crests found in the Platanista forehead may help achieve a higher directionality than expected using clicks nearly an octave lower than similar sized odontocetes.
Accurate prediction of the surgical outcome is important in treating dentofacial deformities. Visualized treatment objectives usually involve manual surgical simulation based on tracing of cephalometric radiographs. Recent technical advancements have led to the use of computer assisted imaging systems in treatment planning for orthognathic surgical cases. The purpose of this study was to examine and compare the ability and reliability of digitization using Dolphin Imaging Software with traditional manual techniques and to compare orthognathic prediction with actual outcomes.
Materials and Methods:
Forty patients consisting of 35 women and 5 men (32 class III and 8 class II) with no previous surgery were evaluated by manual tracing and indirect digitization using Dolphin Imaging Software. Reliability of each method was assessed then the two techniques were compared using paired t test.
The nasal tip presented the least predicted error and higher reliability. The least accurate regions in vertical plane were subnasal and upper lip, and subnasal and pogonion in horizontal plane. There were no statistically significant differences between the predictions of groups with and without genioplasty.
Computer-generated image prediction was suitable for patient education and communication. However, efforts are still needed to improve accuracy and reliability of the prediction program and to include changes in soft tissue tension and muscle strain.
Dolphin Imaging Software; Prediction; Visual Treatment Objectives (VTO)
The world's river dolphins (Inia, Pontoporia, Lipotes and Platanista) are among the least known and most endangered of all cetaceans. The four extant genera inhabit geographically disjunct river systems and exhibit highly modified morphologies, leading many cetologists to regard river dolphins as an unnatural group. Numerous arrangements have been proposed for their phylogenetic relationships to one another and to other odontocete cetaceans. These alternative views strongly affect the biogeographical and evolutionary implications raised by the important, although limited, fossil record of river dolphins. We present a hypothesis of river dolphin relationships based on phylogenetic analysis of three mitochondrial genes for 29 cetacean species, concluding that the four genera represent three separate, ancient branches in odontocete evolution. Our molecular phylogeny corresponds well with the first fossil appearances of the primary lineages of modern odontocetes. Integrating relevant events in Tertiary palaeoceanography, we develop a scenario for river dolphin evolution during the globally high sea levels of the Middle Miocene. We suggest that ancestors of the four extant river dolphin lineages colonized the shallow epicontintental seas that inundated the Amazon, Paraná, Yangtze and Indo-Gangetic river basins, subsequently remaining in these extensive waterways during their transition to freshwater with the Late Neogene trend of sea-level lowering.
Echo-based object classification is a fundamental task of animals that use a biosonar system. Dolphins and porpoises should be able to rely on echoes to discriminate a predator from a prey or to select a desired prey from an undesired object. Many studies have shown that dolphins and porpoises can discriminate between objects according to their echoes. All of these studies however, used unnatural objects that can be easily characterized in human terminologies (e.g., metallic spheres, disks, cylinders). In this work, we collected real fish echoes from many angles of acquisition using a sonar system that mimics the emission properties of dolphins and porpoises. We then tested two alternative statistical approaches in classifying these echoes. Our results suggest that fish species can be classified according to echoes returning from porpoise- and dolphin-like signals. These results suggest how dolphins and porpoises can classify fish based on their echoes and provide some insight as to which features might enable the classification.
Sentinel species such as bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) can be impacted by large-scale mortality events due to exposure to marine algal toxins. In the Sarasota Bay region (Gulf of Mexico, Florida, USA), the bottlenose dolphin population is frequently exposed to harmful algal blooms (HABs) of Karenia brevis and the neurotoxic brevetoxins (PbTx; BTX) produced by this dinoflagellate. Live dolphins sampled during capture-release health assessments performed in this region tested positive for two HAB toxins; brevetoxin and domoic acid (DA). Over a ten-year study period (2000–2009) we have determined that bottlenose dolphins are exposed to brevetoxin and/or DA on a nearly annual basis (i.e., DA: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009; brevetoxin: 2000, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009) with 36% of all animals testing positive for brevetoxin (n = 118) and 53% positive for DA (n = 83) with several individuals (14%) testing positive for both neurotoxins in at least one tissue/fluid. To date there have been no previously published reports of DA in southwestern Florida marine mammals, however the May 2008 health assessment coincided with a Pseudo-nitzschia pseudodelicatissima bloom that was the likely source of DA observed in seawater and live dolphin samples. Concurrently, both DA and brevetoxin were observed in common prey fish. Although no Pseudo-nitzschia bloom was identified the following year, DA was identified in seawater, fish, sediment, snails, and dolphins. DA concentrations in feces were positively correlated with hematologic parameters including an increase in total white blood cell (p = 0.001) and eosinophil (p<0.001) counts. Our findings demonstrate that dolphins within Sarasota Bay are commonly exposed to two algal toxins, and provide the impetus to further explore the potential long-term impacts on bottlenose dolphin health.