Baby Dolphin Die-Off in Gulf Grows

Officials say it's too soon to blame the oil spill
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 3, 2011 12:56 PM CST
Institute for Marine Mammal Studies veterinary technician Wendy Hatchett lifts a dead bottlenose dolphin that was found on Ono Island, Ala., Feb. 22, 2011.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

(Newser) – More and more young bottlenose dolphins are turning up dead in the Gulf, and scientists aren’t entirely sure why. The number of dead dolphins has swelled to 80, according to National Geographic, with about half of them being calves. Speculation is running rampant that the deaths are connected to the BP oil spill. “Everybody wants to jump to that conclusion,” says one NOAA official, “but at this point in time, it’s too early to tell.”

Scientists think some of the calves may have actually been premature stillbirths, because dolphins typically give birth around March or April. “That’s one part of the investigation that we’re going to be looking at very carefully,” the official said. “We’ll methodically score each animal … to determine if, in fact, it was an aborted calf.” (Read more bottlenose dolphin stories.)

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