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Research Shows Link Between Environment, Dolphin Health

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute
The Florida Channel
This deceased dolphin's ribs clearly are visible. It's not clear why the Indian River Lagoon's dolphins died of emaciation.

New research reveals the critical role the environment plays in dolphin health.

The study compared dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon and Charleston, S.C., with those at the Georgia Aquarium and Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in San Diego.

Lead author Patricia Fair of the Medical University of South Carolina says the analysis found the wild dolphins’ immune systems were more stimulated than those of the captive animals.

“The environment plays a very important role in the immune responses of dolphins. If we can see those types of responses between animals that are living in very different conditions, that is a major contributor to their immune function.”

She attributes the difference to the pathogens and pollution wild dolphins face. A spate of unexplained dolphin deaths in the Indian River Lagoon in recent years remains unexplained.