We received a call early in the morning on November 13th regarding a dead baby dolphin. Pictures confirmed this was a neonate bottlenose dolphin based on the size and presence of fetal folds along the body.
I was able to retrieve the dolphin off the beach and bring it back to our lab at Hollings Marine Laboratory, where I was joined by Brooke Brown (LMMN) and Bonnie Ertel (NOAA) for a necropsy.
One way to determine if a neonate was stillborn or not is to do a lung-float test. If you place the lung in a bucket of water and it floats, it is a sign that the animal probably took at least one breath. We did find the lung to float in this case. The immediate cause of death is unknown. Significant findings included jaundiced blubber, coagulated blood in pleural cavity and airways of lungs, an irregularly shaped spleen, and signs of emaciation.
PC: Katie Gleason
While calving season for dolphins in the lowcountry typically peaks in the spring to early summer, dolphins can (and do) still reproduce year-round. Previous research has also shown that there tends to be another peak in neonate sightings in the early autumn, so it is not unusual that we had a neonate stranding this month.