Search tips
Search criteria

Results 1-25 (1447182)

Clipboard (0)

Related Articles

1.  Comparison of Temporal Parameters of Swimming Rescue Elements When Performed Using Dolphin and Flutter Kick with Fins - Didactical Approach 
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.
Key points
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.
PMCID: PMC3763315  PMID: 24150079
Swimming; lifesaving; dolphin kick; fins; rescue tow
2.  Behavioural Effects of Tourism on Oceanic Common Dolphins, Delphinus sp., in New Zealand: The Effects of Markov Analysis Variations and Current Tour Operator Compliance with Regulations 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(1):e0116962.
Common dolphins, Delphinus sp., are one of the marine mammal species tourism operations in New Zealand focus on. While effects of cetacean-watching activities have previously been examined in coastal regions in New Zealand, this study is the first to investigate effects of commercial tourism and recreational vessels on common dolphins in an open oceanic habitat. Observations from both an independent research vessel and aboard commercial tour vessels operating off the central and east coast Bay of Plenty, North Island, New Zealand were used to assess dolphin behaviour and record the level of compliance by permitted commercial tour operators and private recreational vessels with New Zealand regulations. Dolphin behaviour was assessed using two different approaches to Markov chain analysis in order to examine variation of responses of dolphins to vessels. Results showed that, regardless of the variance in Markov methods, dolphin foraging behaviour was significantly altered by boat interactions. Dolphins spent less time foraging during interactions and took significantly longer to return to foraging once disrupted by vessel presence. This research raises concerns about the potential disruption to feeding, a biologically critical behaviour. This may be particularly important in an open oceanic habitat, where prey resources are typically widely dispersed and unpredictable in abundance. Furthermore, because tourism in this region focuses on common dolphins transiting between adjacent coastal locations, the potential for cumulative effects could exacerbate the local effects demonstrated in this study. While the overall level of compliance by commercial operators was relatively high, non-compliance to the regulations was observed with time restriction, number or speed of vessels interacting with dolphins not being respected. Additionally, prohibited swimming with calves did occur. The effects shown in this study should be carefully considered within conservation management plans, in order to reduce the risk of detrimental effects on common dolphins within the region.
PMCID: PMC4286237  PMID: 25565523
3.  Non-Specialist Psychosocial Interventions for Children and Adolescents with Intellectual Disability or Lower-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(12):e1001572.
In a systematic review, Brian Reichow and colleagues assess the evidence that non-specialist care providers in community settings can provide effective interventions for children and adolescents with intellectual disabilities or lower-functioning autism spectrum disorders.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
The development of effective treatments for use by non-specialists is listed among the top research priorities for improving the lives of people with mental illness worldwide. The purpose of this review is to appraise which interventions for children with intellectual disabilities or lower-functioning autism spectrum disorders delivered by non-specialist care providers in community settings produce benefits when compared to either a no-treatment control group or treatment-as-usual comparator.
Methods and Findings
We systematically searched electronic databases through 24 June 2013 to locate prospective controlled studies of psychosocial interventions delivered by non-specialist providers to children with intellectual disabilities or lower-functioning autism spectrum disorders. We screened 234 full papers, of which 34 articles describing 29 studies involving 1,305 participants were included. A majority of the studies included children exclusively with a diagnosis of lower-functioning autism spectrum disorders (15 of 29, 52%). Fifteen of twenty-nine studies (52%) were randomized controlled trials and just under half of all effect sizes (29 of 59, 49%) were greater than 0.50, of which 18 (62%) were statistically significant. For behavior analytic interventions, the best outcomes were shown for development and daily skills; cognitive rehabilitation, training, and support interventions were found to be most effective for improving developmental outcomes, and parent training interventions to be most effective for improving developmental, behavioral, and family outcomes. We also conducted additional subgroup analyses using harvest plots. Limitations include the studies' potential for performance bias and that few were conducted in lower- and middle-income countries.
The findings of this review support the delivery of psychosocial interventions by non-specialist providers to children who have intellectual disabilities or lower-functioning autism spectrum disorders. Given the scarcity of specialists in many low-resource settings, including many lower- and middle-income countries, these findings may provide guidance for scale-up efforts for improving outcomes for children with developmental disorders or lower-functioning autism spectrum disorders.
Protocol Registration
PROSPERO CRD42012002641
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Newborn babies are helpless, but over the first few years of life, they acquire motor (movement) skills, language (communication) skills, cognitive (thinking) skills, and social (interpersonal interaction) skills. Individual aspects of these skills are usually acquired at specific ages, but children with a development disorder such as an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or intellectual disability (mental retardation) fail to reach these “milestones” because of impaired or delayed brain maturation. Autism, Asperger syndrome, and other ASDs (also called pervasive developmental disorders) affect about 1% of the UK and US populations and are characterized by abnormalities in interactions and communication with other people (reciprocal socio-communicative interactions; for example, some children with autism reject physical affection and fail to develop useful speech) and a restricted, stereotyped, repetitive repertoire of interests (for example, obsessive accumulation of facts about unusual topics). About half of individuals with an ASD also have an intellectual disability—a reduced overall level of intelligence characterized by impairment of the skills that are normally acquired during early life. Such individuals have what is called lower-functioning ASD.
Why Was This Study Done?
Most of the children affected by developmental disorders live in low- and middle-income countries where there are few services available to help them achieve their full potential and where little research has been done to identify the most effective treatments. The development of effective treatments for use by non-specialists (for example, teachers and parents) is necessary to improve the lives of people with mental illnesses worldwide, but particularly in resource-limited settings where psychiatrists, psychologists, and other specialists are scarce. In this systematic review, the researchers investigated which psychosocial interventions for children and adolescents with intellectual disabilities or lower-functioning ASDs delivered by non-specialist providers in community settings produce improvements in development, daily skills, school performance, behavior, or family outcomes when compared to usual care (the control condition). A systematic review identifies all the research on a given topic using predefined criteria; psychosocial interventions are defined as therapy, education, training, or support aimed at improving behavior, overall development, or specific life skills without the use of drugs.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 29 controlled studies (investigations with an intervention group and a control group) that examined the effects of various psychosocial interventions delivered by non-specialist providers to children (under 18 years old) who had a lower-functioning ASD or intellectual disability. The researchers retrieved information on the participants, design and methods, findings, and intervention characteristics for each study, and calculated effect sizes—a measure of the effectiveness of a test intervention relative to a control intervention—for several outcomes for each intervention. Across the studies, three-quarters of the effect size estimates were positive, and nearly half were greater than 0.50; effect sizes of less than 0.2, 0.2–0.5, and greater than 0.5 indicate that an intervention has no, a small, or a medium-to-large effect, respectively. For behavior analytic interventions (which aim to improve socially significant behavior by systematically analyzing behavior), the largest effect sizes were seen for development and daily skills. Cognitive rehabilitation, training, and support (interventions that facilitates the relearning of lost or altered cognitive skills) produced good improvements in developmental outcomes such as standardized IQ tests in children aged 6–11 years old. Finally, parental training interventions (which teach parents how to provide therapy services for their child) had strong effects on developmental, behavioral, and family outcomes.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Because few of the studies included in this systematic review were undertaken in low- and middle-income countries, the review's findings may not be generalizable to children living in resource-limited settings. Moreover, other characteristics of the included studies may limit the accuracy of these findings. Nevertheless, these findings support the delivery of psychosocial interventions by non-specialist providers to children who have intellectual disabilities or a lower-functioning ASD, and indicate which interventions are likely to produce the largest improvements in developmental, behavioral, and family outcomes. Further studies are needed, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, to confirm these findings, but given that specialists are scarce in many resource-limited settings, these findings may help to inform the implementation of programs to improve outcomes for children with intellectual disabilities or lower-functioning ASDs in low- and middle-income countries.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Bello-Mojeed and Bakare
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information (in English and Spanish) on developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders and intellectual disability
The US National Institute of Mental Health also provides detailed information about autism spectrum disorders, including the publication “A Parent's Guide to Autism Spectrum Disorder”
Autism Speaks, a US non-profit organization, provides information about all aspects of autism spectrum disorders and includes information on the Autism Speaks Global Autism Public Health Initiative
The National Autistic Society, a UK charity, provides information about all aspects of autism spectrum disorders and includes personal stories about living with these conditions
The UK National Health Service Choices website has an interactive guide to child development and information about autism and Asperger syndrome, including personal stories, and about learning disabilities
The UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence provides clinical guidelines for the management and support of children with autism spectrum disorders
The World Health Organization provides information on its Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP), which includes recommendations on the management of developmental disorders by non-specialist providers; the mhGAP Evidence Resource Center provides evidence reviews for parent skills training for management of children with intellectual disabilities and pervasive developmental disorders and interventions for management of children with intellectual disabilities
PROSPERO, an international prospective register of systematic reviews, provides more information about this systematic review
PMCID: PMC3866092  PMID: 24358029
4.  Brucella ceti infection in dolphins from the Western Mediterranean sea 
BMC Veterinary Research  2014;10(1):206.
Brucella ceti infections have been increasingly reported in cetaceans. Brucellosis in these animals is associated with meningoencephalitis, abortion, discospondylitis’, subcutaneous abscesses, endometritis and other pathological conditions B. ceti infections have been frequently described in dolphins from both, the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. In the Mediterranean Sea, only two reports have been made: one from the Italian Tyrrhenian Sea and the other from the Adriatic Sea.
We describe the clinical and pathological features of three cases of B. ceti infections in three dolphins stranded in the Mediterranean Catalonian coast. One striped dolphin had neurobrucellosis, showing lethargy, incoordination and lateral swimming due to meningoencephalitis, A B. ceti infected bottlenose dolphin had discospondylitis, and another striped dolphin did not show clinical signs or lesions related to Brucella infection. A detailed characterization of the three B. ceti isolates was performed by bacteriological, molecular, protein and fatty acid analyses.
All the B. ceti strains originating from Mediterranean dolphins cluster together in a distinct phylogenetic clade, close to that formed by B. ceti isolates from dolphins inhabiting the Atlantic Ocean. Our study confirms the severity of pathological signs in stranded dolphins and the relevance of B. ceti as a pathogen in the Mediterranean Sea.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12917-014-0206-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4180538  PMID: 25224818
Brucella ceti; Cetacean; Neurobrucellosis; Discospondylitis; Mediterranean sea
5.  Habitat Fragmentation and Species Extirpation in Freshwater Ecosystems; Causes of Range Decline of the Indus River Dolphin (Platanista gangetica minor) 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e101657.
Habitat fragmentation of freshwater ecosystems is increasing rapidly, however the understanding of extinction debt and species decline in riverine habitat fragments lags behind that in other ecosystems. The mighty rivers that drain the Himalaya - the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Indus, Mekong and Yangtze - are amongst the world’s most biodiverse freshwater ecosystems. Many hundreds of dams have been constructed, are under construction, or are planned on these rivers and large hydrological changes and losses of biodiversity have occurred and are expected to continue. This study examines the causes of range decline of the Indus dolphin, which inhabits one of the world’s most modified rivers, to demonstrate how we may expect other vertebrate populations to respond as planned dams and water developments come into operation. The historical range of the Indus dolphin has been fragmented into 17 river sections by diversion dams; dolphin sighting and interview surveys show that river dolphins have been extirpated from ten river sections, they persist in 6, and are of unknown status in one section. Seven potential factors influencing the temporal and spatial pattern of decline were considered in three regression model sets. Low dry-season river discharge, due to water abstraction at irrigation barrages, was the principal factor that explained the dolphin’s range decline, influencing 1) the spatial pattern of persistence, 2) the temporal pattern of subpopulation extirpation, and 3) the speed of extirpation after habitat fragmentation. Dolphins were more likely to persist in the core of the former range because water diversions are concentrated near the range periphery. Habitat fragmentation and degradation of the habitat were inextricably intertwined and in combination caused the catastrophic decline of the Indus dolphin.
PMCID: PMC4100755  PMID: 25029270
6.  The hydrodynamics of dolphin drafting 
Journal of Biology  2004;3(2):8.
Drafting in cetaceans is defined as the transfer of forces between individuals without actual physical contact between them. This behavior has long been surmised to explain how young dolphin calves keep up with their rapidly moving mothers. It has recently been observed that a significant number of calves become permanently separated from their mothers during chases by tuna vessels. A study of the hydrodynamics of drafting, initiated in the hope of understanding the mechanisms causing the separation of mothers and calves during fishing-related activities, is reported here.
Quantitative results are shown for the forces and moments around a pair of unequally sized dolphin-like slender bodies. These include two major effects. First, the so-called Bernoulli suction, which stems from the fact that the local pressure drops in areas of high speed, results in an attractive force between mother and calf. Second is the displacement effect, in which the motion of the mother causes the water in front to move forwards and radially outwards, and water behind the body to move forwards to replace the animal's mass. Thus, the calf can gain a 'free ride' in the forward-moving areas. Utilizing these effects, the neonate can gain up to 90% of the thrust needed to move alongside the mother at speeds of up to 2.4 m/sec. A comparison with observations of eastern spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris) is presented, showing savings of up to 60% in the thrust that calves require if they are to keep up with their mothers.
A theoretical analysis, backed by observations of free-swimming dolphin schools, indicates that hydrodynamic interactions with mothers play an important role in enabling dolphin calves to keep up with rapidly moving adult school members.
PMCID: PMC416558  PMID: 15132740
7.  Effects of a dolphin interaction program on children with autism spectrum disorders – an exploratory research 
BMC Research Notes  2012;5:199.
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.
PMCID: PMC3468398  PMID: 22537536
8.  Anaemia, hypothyroidism and immune suppression associated with polychlorinated biphenyl exposure in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) 
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.
PMCID: PMC3223648  PMID: 21613298
endocrine disruptors; polychlorinated biphenyls; immune suppression; thyroid; marine mammals
9.  Blood-Based Indicators of Insulin Resistance and Metabolic Syndrome in Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) 
Similar to people with metabolic syndrome, bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) can have a sustained postprandial hyperglycemia and hyperinsulinemia, dyslipidemia, and fatty liver disease. A panel of potential postprandial blood-based indicators of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome were compared among 34 managed collection dolphins in San Diego Bay, CA, USA (Group A) and 16 wild, free-ranging dolphins in Sarasota Bay, FL, USA (Group B). Compared to Group B, Group A had higher insulin (2.1 ± 2.5 and 13 ± 13 μIU/ml), glucose (87 ± 19 and 108 ± 12 mg/dl), and triglycerides (75 ± 28 and 128 ± 45 mg/dl) as well as higher cholesterol (total, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and very low density lipoprotein cholesterol), iron, transferrin saturation, gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGT), alanine transaminase, and uric acid. Group A had higher percent unmodified adiponectin. While Group A dolphins were older, the same blood-based differences remained when controlling for age. There were no differences in body mass index (BMI) between the groups, and comparisons between Group B and Group A dolphins have consistently demonstrated lower stress hormones levels in Group A. Group A dolphins with high insulin (greater than 14 μIU/ml) had higher glucose, iron, GGT, and BMI compared to Group A dolphins with lower insulin. These findings support that some dolphin groups may be more susceptible to insulin resistance compared to others, and primary risk factors are not likely age, BMI, or stress. Lower high-molecular weight adiponectin has been identified as an independent risk factor for type 2 diabetes in humans and may be a target for preventing insulin resistance in dolphins. Future investigations with these two dolphin populations, including dietary and feeding differences, may provide valuable insight for preventing and treating insulin resistance in humans.
PMCID: PMC3793200  PMID: 24130551
adiponectin; bottlenose dolphin; diabetes; insulin resistance; iron; metabolic syndrome
10.  Visual Lateralization in Wild Striped Dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba) in Response to Stimuli with Different Degrees of Familiarity 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e30001.
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.
Methodology/Principal Findings
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.
PMCID: PMC3258257  PMID: 22253855
11.  A supermatrix analysis of genomic, morphological, and paleontological data from crown Cetacea 
Cetacea (dolphins, porpoises, and whales) is a clade of aquatic species that includes the most massive, deepest diving, and largest brained mammals. Understanding the temporal pattern of diversification in the group as well as the evolution of cetacean anatomy and behavior requires a robust and well-resolved phylogenetic hypothesis. Although a large body of molecular data has accumulated over the past 20 years, DNA sequences of cetaceans have not been directly integrated with the rich, cetacean fossil record to reconcile discrepancies among molecular and morphological characters.
We combined new nuclear DNA sequences, including segments of six genes (~2800 basepairs) from the functionally extinct Yangtze River dolphin, with an expanded morphological matrix and published genomic data. Diverse analyses of these data resolved the relationships of 74 taxa that represent all extant families and 11 extinct families of Cetacea. The resulting supermatrix (61,155 characters) and its sub-partitions were analyzed using parsimony methods. Bayesian and maximum likelihood (ML) searches were conducted on the molecular partition, and a molecular scaffold obtained from these searches was used to constrain a parsimony search of the morphological partition. Based on analysis of the supermatrix and model-based analyses of the molecular partition, we found overwhelming support for 15 extant clades. When extinct taxa are included, we recovered trees that are significantly correlated with the fossil record. These trees were used to reconstruct the timing of cetacean diversification and the evolution of characters shared by "river dolphins," a non-monophyletic set of species according to all of our phylogenetic analyses.
The parsimony analysis of the supermatrix and the analysis of morphology constrained to fit the ML/Bayesian molecular tree yielded broadly congruent phylogenetic hypotheses. In trees from both analyses, all Oligocene taxa included in our study fell outside crown Mysticeti and crown Odontoceti, suggesting that these two clades radiated in the late Oligocene or later, contra some recent molecular clock studies. Our trees also imply that many character states shared by river dolphins evolved in their oceanic ancestors, contradicting the hypothesis that these characters are convergent adaptations to fluvial habitats.
PMCID: PMC3114740  PMID: 21518443
12.  A Mini Review of Dolphin Carbohydrate Metabolism and Suggestions for Future Research Using Exhaled Air 
In the 1960s, I explored some aspects of carbohydrate metabolism in healthy bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Their physiological picture resembled what had been described for hyperthyroid diabetics. Dolphins have elevated thyroid hormone turnover, and fasting dolphins maintain a relatively high level of plasma glucose. After dolphins ingest glucose, plasma levels remain high for many hours. Interestingly, plasma glucose must exceed 300 mg/dL (about twice as high as the human threshold) before glucose appears in urine. Due to their diabetes-like states, trainability, and unique natural respiratory anatomy and physiology, dolphins may offer useful clues to metabolites in the breath that may be used to non-invasively monitor diabetes in humans. Dolphins take very rapid and deep breaths that are four or five times as deep as humans and other terrestrial mammals, making them ideal for physiological assessment using non-invasive exhaled air. Avenues for successfully identifying breath-based markers for metabolic disease and physiology in dolphins can be done with both modern technology and the evolutionarily advantageous canine nose. This review summarizes aspects of dolphin metabolism previously learned and offers new directions for diabetes research that may benefit both dolphin and human health.
PMCID: PMC3863911  PMID: 24379802
dolphin; carbohydrate; breath analysis; diabetes; exhalation; glucose; dog; smell
13.  Comparative Analysis of Three Brevetoxin-Associated Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) Mortality Events in the Florida Panhandle Region (USA) 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e42974.
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.
PMCID: PMC3419745  PMID: 22916189
14.  Isolation and Characterization of a Helicobacter sp. from the Gastric Mucosa of Dolphins, Lagenorhynchus acutus and Delphinus delphis 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2000;66(11):4751-4757.
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.
PMCID: PMC92375  PMID: 11055919
15.  Identification and Characteristics of Signature Whistles in Wild Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) from Namibia 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e106317.
A signature whistle type is a learned, individually distinctive whistle type in a dolphin's acoustic repertoire that broadcasts the identity of the whistle owner. The acquisition and use of signature whistles indicates complex cognitive functioning that requires wider investigation in wild dolphin populations. Here we identify signature whistle types from a population of approximately 100 wild common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) inhabiting Walvis Bay, and describe signature whistle occurrence, acoustic parameters and temporal production. A catalogue of 43 repeatedly emitted whistle types (REWTs) was generated by analysing 79 hrs of acoustic recordings. From this, 28 signature whistle types were identified using a method based on the temporal patterns in whistle sequences. A visual classification task conducted by 5 naïve judges showed high levels of agreement in classification of whistles (Fleiss-Kappa statistic, κ = 0.848, Z = 55.3, P<0.001) and supported our categorisation. Signature whistle structure remained stable over time and location, with most types (82%) recorded in 2 or more years, and 4 identified at Walvis Bay and a second field site approximately 450 km away. Whistle acoustic parameters were consistent with those of signature whistles documented in Sarasota Bay (Florida, USA). We provide evidence of possible two-voice signature whistle production by a common bottlenose dolphin. Although signature whistle types have potential use as a marker for studying individual habitat use, we only identified approximately 28% of those from the Walvis Bay population, despite considerable recording effort. We found that signature whistle type diversity was higher in larger dolphin groups and groups with calves present. This is the first study describing signature whistles in a wild free-ranging T. truncatus population inhabiting African waters and it provides a baseline on which more in depth behavioural studies can be based.
PMCID: PMC4159226  PMID: 25203814
16.  Lobomycosis: Risk of Zoonotic Transmission from Dolphins to Humans 
Vector Borne and Zoonotic Diseases  2013;13(10):689-693.
Lobomycosis, a fungal disease of the skin and subcutaneous tissues caused by Lacazia loboi, is sometimes referred to as a zoonotic disease because it affects only specific delphinidae and humans; however, the evidence that it can be transferred directly to humans from dolphins is weak. Dolphins have also been postulated to be responsible for an apparent geographic expansion of the disease in humans. Morphological and molecular differences between the human and dolphin organisms, differences in geographic distribution of the diseases between dolphins and humans, the existence of only a single documented case of presumed zoonotic transmission, and anecdotal evidence of lack of transmission to humans following accidental inoculation of tissue from infected dolphins do not support the hypothesis that dolphins infected with L. loboi represent a zoonotic hazard for humans. In addition, the lack of human cases in communities adjacent to coastal estuaries with a high prevalence of lobomycosis in dolphins, such as the Indian River Lagoon in Florida (IRL), suggests that direct or indirect transmission of L. loboi from dolphins to humans occurs rarely, if at all. Nonetheless, attention to personal hygiene and general principals of infection control are always appropriate when handling tissues from an animal with a presumptive diagnosis of a mycotic or fungal disease.
PMCID: PMC3787463  PMID: 23919604
Lobomycosis; Lacazia loboi; Zoonoses; Dolphins; Marine mammals; Mycoses
17.  Mercury and Selenium in Stranded Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins and Implications for Their Trophic Transfer in Food Chains 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e110336.
As top predators in the Pearl River Estuary (PRE) of China, Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) are bioindicators for examining regional trends of environmental contaminants in the PRE. We examined samples from stranded S. chinensis in the PRE, collected since 2004, to study the distribution and fate of total mercury (THg), methylmercury (MeHg) and selenium (Se) in the major tissues, in individuals at different ages and their prey fishes from the PRE. This study also investigated the potential protective effects of Se against the toxicities of accumulated THg. Dolphin livers contained the highest concentrations of THg (32.34±58.98 µg g−1 dw) and Se (15.16±3.66 µg g−1 dw), which were significantly different from those found in kidneys and muscles, whereas the highest residue of MeHg (1.02±1.11 µg g−1 dw) was found in dolphin muscles. Concentrations of both THg and MeHg in the liver, kidney and muscle of dolphins showed a significantly positive correlation with age. The biomagnification factors (BMFs) of inorganic mercury (Hginorg) in dolphin livers (350×) and MeHg in muscles (18.7×) through the prey fishes were the highest among all three dolphin tissues, whereas the BMFs of Se were much lower in all dolphin tissues. The lower proportion of MeHg in THg and higher Se/THg ratios in tissues were demonstrated. Our studies suggested that S. chinensis might have the potential to detoxify Hg via the demethylation of MeHg and the formation of tiemannite (HgSe) in the liver and kidney. The lower threshold of hepatic THg concentrations for the equimolar accumulation of Se and Hg in S. chinensis suggests that this species has a greater sensitivity to THg concentrations than is found in striped dolphins and Dall’s porpoises.
PMCID: PMC4195725  PMID: 25310100
18.  Concurrent Exposure of Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) to Multiple Algal Toxins in Sarasota Bay, Florida, USA 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(3):e17394.
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.
PMCID: PMC3053359  PMID: 21423740
19.  Distribution Patterns Predict Individual Specialization in the Diet of Dolphin Gulls 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e67714.
Many animals show some degree of individual specialization in foraging strategies and diet. This has profound ecological and evolutionary implications. For example, populations containing diverse individual foraging strategies will respond in different ways to changes in the environment, thus affecting the capacity of the populations to adapt to environmental changes and to diversify. However, patterns of individual specialization have been examined in few species. Likewise it is usually unknown whether specialization is maintained over time, because examining the temporal scale at which specialization occurs can prove difficult in the field. In the present study, we analyzed individual specialization in foraging in Dolphin Gulls Leucophaeus scoresbii, a scavenger endemic to the southernmost coasts of South America. We used GPS position logging and stable isotope analyses (SIA) to investigate individual specialization in feeding strategies and their persistence over time. The analysis of GPS data indicated two major foraging strategies in Dolphin Gulls from New I. (Falkland Is./Islas Malvinas). Tagged individuals repeatedly attended either a site with mussel beds or seabird and seal colonies during 5 to 7 days of tracking. Females foraging at mussel beds were heavier than those foraging at seabird colonies. Nitrogen isotope ratios (δ15N) of Dolphin Gull blood cells clustered in two groups, showing that individuals were consistent in their preferred foraging strategies over a period of at least several weeks. The results of the SIA as well as the foraging patterns recorded revealed a high degree of specialization for particular feeding sites and diets by individual Dolphin Gulls. Individual differences in foraging behavior were not related to sex. Specialization in Dolphin Gulls may be favored by the advantages of learning and memorizing optimal feeding locations and behaviors. Specialized individuals may reduce search and handling time and thus, optimize their energy gain and/or minimize time spent foraging.
PMCID: PMC3699636  PMID: 23844073
20.  Seven new dolphin mitochondrial genomes and a time-calibrated phylogeny of whales 
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.
PMCID: PMC2656474  PMID: 19166626
21.  Evaluation of Potential Protective Factors Against Metabolic Syndrome in Bottlenose Dolphins: Feeding and Activity Patterns of Dolphins in Sarasota Bay, Florida 
Free-ranging bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) living in Sarasota Bay, Florida appear to have a lower risk of developing insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome compared to a group of dolphins managed under human care. Similar to humans, differences in diet and activity cycles between these groups may explain why Sarasota dolphins have lower insulin, glucose, and lipids. To identify potential protective factors against metabolic syndrome, existing and new data were incorporated to describe feeding and activity patterns of the Sarasota Bay wild dolphin community. Sarasota dolphins eat a wide variety of live fish and spend 10–20% of daylight hours foraging and feeding. Feeding occurs throughout the day, with the dolphins eating small proportions of their total daily intake in brief bouts. The natural pattern of wild dolphins is to feed as necessary and possible at any time of the day or night. Wild dolphins rarely eat dead fish or consume large amounts of prey in concentrated time periods. Wild dolphins are active throughout the day and night; they may engage in bouts of each key activity category at any time during daytime. Dive patterns of radio-tagged dolphins varied only slightly with time of day. Travel rates may be slightly lower at night, suggesting a diurnal rhythm, albeit not one involving complete, extended rest. In comparison, the managed dolphins are older; often fed a smaller variety of frozen-thawed fish types; fed fish species not in their natural diet; feedings and engaged activities are often during the day; and they are fed larger but fewer meals. In summary, potential protective factors against metabolic syndrome in dolphins may include young age, activity, and small meals fed throughout the day and night, and specific fish nutrients. These protective factors against insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes are similar to those reported in humans. Further studies may benefit humans and dolphins.
PMCID: PMC3794307  PMID: 24133483
metabolic disease; diet; age; bottlenose dolphin; activity cycles; foraging; telemetry
22.  Development and Application of Specific Cytokine Assays in Tissue Samples from a Bottlenose Dolphin with Hyperinsulinemia 
Chronic inflammation has been associated with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes (T2D) in humans. Postmortem hepatic and splenic tissue from a 46-year-old geriatric male bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) with insulin resistance (chronic hyperinsulinemia with hyperglycemia), chronic inflammation (white blood cell count greater than 12,000 cells/μL), and mild fatty liver disease was evaluated for elevated pro-inflammatory mediators. Cytokine mRNA expression in postmortem hepatic and splenic tissue, as determined by real-time PCR, included an array of cytokines: TGF-β, TNF-α, IFN-γ, IL-2, IL-4, IL-10, IL-12p40, IL-13, and IL-18. Values from this dolphin were compared to a younger reference dolphin with no known chronic metabolic perturbations or inflammation. Levels of TGF-β, TNF-α, and IL-4 were higher in the case dolphin’s liver compared to that of the reference dolphin. In the case dolphin’s spleen, IL-10 and IFN-γ mRNA was upregulated while IL-4 was less than the reference dolphin. IL-18 and IL-13 were upregulated in both tissues. Fluorescent immunohistochemistry (IHC) utilized the following antibodies: anti-porcine IL-6, anti-bovine IFN-γ, IL-4, and IL-10, anti-human TGF-β, anti-ovine IL-1β, and anti-dolphin IL-8. Fluorescent IHC in spleen from the case dolphin revealed staining of IL-4, IL-6, IL-8, and TGF-β throughout the tissue. IL-10 and IFN-γ were seen to predominate in areas surrounding the follicles of splenic tissue. This is the first characterization of cytokine levels in dolphin hepatic and splenic tissue. While there are limitations to a case study, this report of inflammatory biomarkers in tissues of a dolphin with insulin resistance and fatty liver disease are similar to those observed in human patients.
PMCID: PMC3787309  PMID: 24101915
Tursiops truncatus; hyperinsulinemia; diabetes; inflammation; cytokines; real-time PCR; immunohistochemistry
23.  Multi-locus phylogeography of the dusky dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus): passive dispersal via the west-wind drift or response to prey species and climate change? 
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.
PMCID: PMC1973136  PMID: 17683557
24.  Evidence for a Numerosity Category that is Based on Abstract Qualities of “Few” vs. “Many” in the Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) 
A previous study (Kilian et al., 2003) had demonstrated that bottlenose dolphins can discriminate visual stimuli differing in numerosity. The aim of the present study was twofold: first, we sought to determine if dolphins are able to use a numerical category based on “few” vs. “many” when discriminating stimuli according to the number of their constituent patterns. Second, we aimed to extend the previously demonstrated range of numbers, thereby testing the limits of the numerical abilities of bottlenose dolphins. To this end, one adult bottlenose dolphin learned to discriminate between two simultaneously presented stimuli which varied in the number of elements they contained. After initial training, several confounding parameters were excluded to render it likely that discrimination performance indeed depended on numerosity. Subsequently, the animal was tested with new stimuli of intermediate as well as higher numbers of elements. Once discrimination had been achieved, a reversal-training on a subset of stimuli was initiated. Afterward, the subject generalized the reversal successful to new and unreinforced stimuli. Our results reveal two main findings: firstly, our data strongly suggest a magnitude and a distance effect. Thus, coding of numerical information in dolphins might follow logarithmic scaling as postulated by the Weber-Fechner law. Secondly, after learning a reversal of contingencies, the dolphin generalized the reversal successful to new and unreinforced stimuli. Thus, within the limits of a study that was conducted with a single individual, our results suggest that dolphins are able to learn and use a numerical category that is based on abstract qualities of “few” vs. “many.”
PMCID: PMC3491586  PMID: 23162512
cetacea; numerosity; reversal learning; categorization; Weber-Fechner law
25.  Comparison of Nephrolithiasis Prevalence in Two Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) Populations 
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.
PMCID: PMC3797464  PMID: 24137158
urate nephrolithiasis; dolphins; Tursiops truncatus; ultrasound; computed tomography; age

Results 1-25 (1447182)