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News Article | April 17, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

They are shy and elusive. They are tinier than a dolphin. And they are disappearing fast. Despite heroic efforts, vaquita porpoises are dying at astounding rates in illegal fishing nets in their limited habitat in the northwestern corner of the Gulf of California. Last week, two more vaquitas were found dead. Fewer than 30 vaquitas are believed to be alive today, making them the most endangered marine mammal in the world. But there is reason to hope. An unusual, diverse, international coalition of partners called VaquitaCPR and led by the Mexican government has worked feverishly to develop a bold, first-ever emergency plan to rescue the vaquita and place them in a sanctuary until illegal fishing is ended and their habitat is cleared of deadly gillnets. This week, the Mexican government's Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) announced a pledge of up to $3 million dollars to help launch the first critical phase of this emergency plan, including construction of a sea pen sanctuary. This is a significant financial commitment, but additional support from the public is vital to ensure the full implementation of this daring effort to recover a population that totaled 600 animals just 20 years ago. "The challenge is staggering," says The Marine Mammal Center's Executive Director Dr. Jeff Boehm, who is leading the coalition's fundraising efforts. "How we respond to this emergency reveals who we are as a society. It sets precedent. We are asking the public to step up and donate what they can today at http://www. to match the Mexican government's generous funding. Additional donations are needed for veterinary care, staffing, and equipment and to ensure the program is not cut short because of lack of funds." The critical need for support from the public to help save the vaquita has been reinforced by a number of celebrities, who are asking their fans to help fund the project, according to Dr. Cynthia Smith, Executive Director of the National Marine Mammal Foundation. The Foundation is one of the primary partners supporting VaquitaCPR. Dr. Smith thanks singer, songwriter, and actress Miley Cyrus, and actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Chris Hemsworth, and Carolyn Hennesy. "Public outreach and awareness is so essential to this project," said Dr. Smith. "When people understand the world is about to lose something dear, they will try to make a difference." The caring, compassion, and concern that prompted the development of the emergency plan to save the vaquita from extinction gained additional support today. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) announced its members have committed their support through its Save Animals from Extinction (SAFE) program and pledged to raise additional funds for VaquitaCPR. In recent years, significant contributions have enabled efforts that have focused on assessing the population and educating the public about the devastating threat facing the endangered porpoise. The Mexican government has expended more than $100 million to date on these efforts and more. According to Debborah Luke, AZA's Senior Vice President for Conservation & Science, the AZA community has also contributed to vaquita conservation through its innovative SAFE program in the past five years. The illegal gillnets killing vaquita are used to catch another endangered species, the totoaba. The fish's dried swim bladders fetch huge sums of money in China and Hong Kong, where it is believed the bladders help maintain youthful-looking skin. "We are very grateful that both the Mexican government and AZA have pledged support and hope it will inspire others who share our determination to save the vaquita to donate," emphasized Dr. Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, lead researcher and head of Mexico's International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA). "Does the public care enough to help save the most endangered marine mammal in the world? I think so. We can't stand by and watch this precious resource disappear. It will be challenging, but we must try." To support the rescue effort, learn more about the vaquita and for information about VaquitaCPR, visit VaquitaCPR.org VaquitaCPR is led by Mexico's Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT). 'VaquitaCPR' is dedicated to conserving, protecting, and helping this rare porpoise recover. The National Marine Mammal Foundation, The Marine Mammal Center, and the Chicago Zoological Society are primary partners in this extraordinary conservation effort. Key collaborators in Mexico include the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA), the National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change (INECC), the Mexican Association of Habitats for the Interaction and Protection of Marine Mammals (AMHMAR), and Acuario Oceanico. Additional United States collaborators are Duke University and the Marine Mammal Commission, with NOAA Fisheries providing technical expertise. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Dolphin Quest, SeaWorld, Vancouver Aquarium, the International Marine Animal Trainer's Association and the Association of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums are offering support and expertise to the program and assisting with fundraising.


Fahlman A.,Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi | Fahlman A.,Spanish Institute of Oceanography | Van Hoop J.D.,Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution | Moore M.J.,Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution | And 3 more authors.
Biology Open | Year: 2016

The accurate estimation of field metabolic rates (FMR) in wild animals is a key component of bioenergetic models, and is important for understanding the routine limitations for survival as well as individual responses to disturbances or environmental changes. Several methods have been used to estimate FMR, including accelerometer-derived activity budgets, isotope dilution techniques, and proxies from heart rate. Counting the number of breaths is another method used to assess FMR in cetaceans, which is attractive in its simplicity and the ability to measure respiration frequency from visual cues or data loggers. This method hinges on the assumption that over time a constant tidal volume (VT) and O2 exchange fraction (ÄO2 ) can be used to predict FMR. To test whether this method of estimating FMR is valid, we measured breath-by-breath tidal volumes and expired O2 levels of bottlenose dolphins, and computed the O2 consumption rate (V?O2 ) before and after a pre-determined duration of exercise. The measured V?O2 was compared with three methods to estimate FMR. Each method to estimate V?O2 included variable VT and/or ÄO2 . Two assumption-based methods overestimated V?O2 by 216-501%. Once the temporal changes in cardio-respiratory physiology, such as variation in VT and ÄO2 , were taken into account, pre-exercise resting V?O2 was predicted to within 2%, and post-exercise V?O2 was overestimated by 12%. Our data show that a better understanding of cardiorespiratory physiology significantly improves the ability to estimate metabolic rate from respiratory frequency, and further emphasizes the importance of eco-physiology for conservation management efforts. © 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd |.


PubMed | V.M.D. Consulting, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Dolphin Quest Inc.
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Biology open | Year: 2016

The accurate estimation of field metabolic rates (FMR) in wild animals is a key component of bioenergetic models, and is important for understanding the routine limitations for survival as well as individual responses to disturbances or environmental changes. Several methods have been used to estimate FMR, including accelerometer-derived activity budgets, isotope dilution techniques, and proxies from heart rate. Counting the number of breaths is another method used to assess FMR in cetaceans, which is attractive in its simplicity and the ability to measure respiration frequency from visual cues or data loggers. This method hinges on the assumption that over time a constant tidal volume (VT) and O2exchange fraction (O2) can be used to predict FMR. To test whether this method of estimating FMR is valid, we measured breath-by-breath tidal volumes and expired O2levels of bottlenose dolphins, and computed the O2consumption rate (VO2 ) before and after a pre-determined duration of exercise. The measuredVO2 was compared with three methods to estimate FMR. Each method to estimateVO2 included variable VT and/or O2 Two assumption-based methods overestimatedVO2 by 216-501%. Once the temporal changes in cardio-respiratory physiology, such as variation in VT and O2, were taken into account, pre-exercise restingVO2 was predicted to within 2%, and post-exerciseVO2 was overestimated by 12%. Our data show that a better understanding of cardiorespiratory physiology significantly improves the ability to estimate metabolic rate from respiratory frequency, and further emphasizes the importance of eco-physiology for conservation management efforts.


Sklansky M.,Childrens Hospital Los Angeles | Renner M.,Dolphin Research Center | Clough P.,Dolphin Research Center | Levine G.,Dolphin Quest Inc. | And 5 more authors.
Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine | Year: 2010

In humans, fetal echocardiography represents the most important tool for the assessment of the cardiovascular well-being of the fetus. However, because of logistic, anatomic, and behavioral challenges, detailed fetal echocardiographic evaluation of marine mammals has not been previously described. Because the application of fetal echocardiography to cetaceans could have both clinical and academic importance, an approach to evaluating the fetal dolphin's cardiovascular status was developed with conventional, fetal echocardiographic techniques developed in humans. Eight singleton fetal bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) were evaluated, each between 6 and 11 mo gestation; six fetuses underwent two fetal echocardiographic evaluations each, four at 3-mo intervals, and two at 0.5-mo intervals. Evaluations were performed without sedation, using conventional, portable ultrasound systems. Multiple transducers, probes, and maternal dolphin positions were used to optimize image quality. Fetal echocardiography included two-dimensional imaging and color flow mapping of the heart and great arteries, as well as pulsed Doppler evaluation of the umbilical artery and vein. Thorough evaluations of the fetal dolphins' cardiovascular status were performed, with the greatest resolution between 8 and 9 mo gestation. With the use of published human fetal echocardiographic findings for comparison, fetal echocardiography demonstrated normal structure and function of the heart and great arteries, including the pulmonary veins, inferior vena cava, right and left atria, foramen ovale, tricuspid and mitral valves, right and left ventricles, ventricular septum, pulmonary and aortic valves, main pulmonary artery and ascending aorta, and ductus arteriosus. Pulsed Doppler techniques demonstrated normal umbilical arterial and venous waveforms, and color flow mapping demonstrated absence of significant valvar regurgitation. Fetal echocardiography, particularly between 8 and 9 mo gestation, can provide a safe and detailed assessment of the cardiovascular status of the fetal bottlenose dolphin. Copyright 2010 by American Association of Zoo Veterinarians.


Fahlman A.,Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi | Loring S.H.,Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center | Levine G.,Dolphin Quest Inc. | Rocho-Levine J.,Dolphin Quest Inc. | And 2 more authors.
Journal of Experimental Biology | Year: 2015

We measured esophageal pressures, respiratory flow rates, and expired O2 and CO2 in six adult bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) during voluntary breaths and maximal (chuff) respiratory efforts. The data were used to estimate the dynamic specific lung compliance (sCL), the O2 consumption rate (VO2) and CO2 production rates (VCO2) during rest. Our results indicate that bottlenose dolphins have the capacity to generate respiratory flow rates that exceed 130 l s-1 and 30 l s-1 during expiration and inspiration, respectively. The esophageal pressures indicated that expiration is passive during voluntary breaths, but active during maximal efforts, whereas inspiration is active for all breaths. The average sCL of dolphins was 0.31±0.04 cmH2O-1, which is considerably higher than that of humans (0.08 cmH2O-1) and that previously measured in a pilot whale (0.13 cmH2O-1). The average estimated VO2 and VCO2 using our breath-by-breath respirometry system ranged from 0.857 to 1.185 l O2 min-1 and 0.589 to 0.851 l CO2 min-1, respectively, which is similar to previously published metabolic measurements from the same animals using conventional flow-through respirometry. In addition, our custom-made system allows us to approximate end tidal gas composition. Our measurements provide novel data for respiratory physiology in cetaceans, which may be important for clinical medicine and conservation efforts. © 2015, Company of Biologists Ltd. All rights reserved.


Morey J.S.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Neely M.G.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Lunardi D.,University of Ferrara | Anderson P.E.,College of Charleston | And 4 more authors.
BMC Genomics | Year: 2016

Background: The blood transcriptome can reflect both systemic exposures and pathological changes in other organs of the body because immune cells recirculate through the blood, lymphoid tissues, and affected sites. In human and veterinary medicine, blood transcriptome analysis has been used successfully to identify markers of disease or pathological conditions, but can be confounded by large seasonal changes in expression. In comparison, the use of transcriptomic based analyses in wildlife has been limited. Here we report a longitudinal study of four managed bottlenose dolphins located in Waikoloa, Hawaii, serially sampled (approximately monthly) over the course of 1 year to establish baseline information on the content and variation of the dolphin blood transcriptome. Results: Illumina based RNA-seq analyses were carried out using both the Ensembl dolphin genome and a de novo blood transcriptome as guides. Overall, the blood transcriptome encompassed a wide array of cellular functions and processes and was relatively stable within and between animals over the course of 1 year. Principal components analysis revealed moderate clustering by sex associated with the variation among global gene expression profiles (PC1, 22 % of variance). Limited seasonal change was observed, with<2.5 % of genes differentially expressed between winter and summer months (FDR<0.05). Among the differentially expressed genes, cosinor analysis identified seasonal rhythmicity for the observed changes in blood gene expression, consistent with studies in humans. While the proportion of seasonally variant genes in these dolphins is much smaller than that reported in humans, the majority of those identified in dolphins were also shown to vary with season in humans. Gene co-expression network analysis identified several gene modules with significant correlation to age, sex, or hematological parameters. Conclusions: This longitudinal analysis of healthy managed dolphins establishes a preliminary baseline for blood transcriptome analysis in this species. Correlations with hematological parameters, distinct from muted seasonal effects, suggest that the otherwise relatively stable blood transcriptome may be a useful indicator of health and exposure. A robust database of gene expression in free-ranging and managed dolphins across seasons with known adverse health conditions or contaminant exposures will be needed to establish predictive gene expression profiles suitable for biomonitoring. © 2016 The Author(s).


Yordy J.E.,Medical University of South Carolina | Yordy J.E.,U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology | Mollenhauer M.A.,Medical University of South Carolina | Wilson R.M.,Florida State University | And 8 more authors.
Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry | Year: 2010

Cetaceans are federally protected species that are prone to accumulate complex mixtures of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which individually may exert estrogenic or antiestrogenic effects. In the present study it was assessed whether contaminant mixtures harbored by cetaceans are estrogenic or antiestrogenic using a comparative approach. Interactions of antiestrogenic and estrogenic compounds were first investigated with the E-Screen assay using a mixture of four POPs (dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene [4,4'-DDE], trans-nonachlor, and polychlorinated biphenyls [PCBs] 138 180) prevalent in cetacean blubber. Estrogenic/antiestrogenic activity was determined for the individual compounds and their binary, tertiary, and quaternary combinations. Significantly different responses were observed for the various POP mixtures, including enhanced estrogenic and antiestrogenic effects and antagonistic interactions. These results were then compared to the concentrations and estrogenic/antiestrogenic activity of contaminant mixtures isolated directly from the blubber of 15 bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) collected from five U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico locations. The lowest observed effect concentrations (LOECs) determined for 4,4'-DDE (20 μmol/L), PCB 138 (20 μmol/L), PCB 180 (21 μmol/L), and trans-nonachlor (3 μmol/L) in the E-Screen were greater than estimated dolphin blood concentrations. Although estimated blood concentrations were below the LOECs, significant estrogenic activity was detected in diluted dolphin blubber from Cape May, NJ and Bermuda. Positive correlations between blubber estrogenicity and select POP concentrations (σDDTs, σPBDEs, σHCB, σestrogenic PCBs, σestrogenic POPs) were also observed. Collectively, these results suggest that select bottlenose dolphin populations may be exposed to contaminants that act in concert to exert estrogenic effects at biologically relevant concentrations. These observations do not necessarily provide direct evidence of endocrine disruption; however, they may indicate an environmental source of xenoestrogenic exposure warranting future research. © 2010 SETAC.


Sweeney J.C.,Dolphin Quest Inc. | Stone R.,Dolphin Quest Inc. | Campbell M.,Dolphin Quest Inc. | McBain J.,SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment | And 4 more authors.
Aquatic Mammals | Year: 2010

Animal managers from three institutions that hold Tursiops truncatus participated in a workshop directed at documenting survivability of Tursiops neonates (birth to 30 d of age) in their managed populations. Key information was generated for the period 1990 through 2009 for the three organizations. Included in the findings are (1) documentation of the total live births, total fatalities, and causal factors of neonate losses; (2) recommendations for optimizing animal management procedures through standardized monitoring and husbandry intervention techniques, resulting in the best possible survivability of neonates; and (3) comparison of neonate survivability between the years 1990 to 1999 (78.2% of live births) and 2000 to 2009 (90.6% of live births), the latter decade representing progressing improvements in survivability resulting from recommended animal management procedures.


Wells R.S.,Sarasota Dolphin Research Program | Smith C.R.,National Marine Mammal Foundation | Sweeney J.C.,Dolphin Quest Inc. | Townsend F.I.,Bayside Hospital for Animals | And 6 more authors.
Aquatic Mammals | Year: 2014

Reproductive success is an important aspect of dolphin population health as it is an indicator of the trajectory for the population into the future. Concerns about potential reproductive impacts of environmental contaminants have stimulated increased interest in measuring reproductive success in wild dolphin populations. One measure of reproductive success is the survival of fetuses to parturition. Pregnancy determination for wild dolphins, including differentiation of pregnancy stage, is possible during capture-release health assessments through application of diagnostic ultrasound to evaluate fetal development and viability, estimate gestational age, and measure anatomical structures. As a first step toward understanding reproductive success in utero, we combined pregnancy detections during health assessments with subsequent observational population monitoring to examine and evaluate pregnancy outcome for well-known, long-term resident common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Sarasota Bay, Florida. In total, 0.83 (95% CI = 0.52 to 0.99) of detected pregnancies were documented as resulting in live births. The use of ultrasound for systematic pregnancy determination provides a useful tool for measuring an important component of reproductive success. Application of this approach for conservation of wild populations benefits from the establishment of baseline values such as the estimates provided herein for the reference population of bottlenose dolphins residing in Sarasota Bay, Florida.


Bossart G.,University of Miami | Bossart G.,Florida Atlantic University | Arheart K.,University of Miami | Hunt M.,Georgia Aquarium | And 10 more authors.
Aquatic Mammals | Year: 2012

Serum protein electrophoresis (SPEP) has been recognized as an important tool in human and veterinary medicine. The present study investigated the use of SPEP in serum samples from healthy Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Fraction delimitation was defined for the standardization of use by other laboratories. The imprecision of this method was comparable to reports in other species. A significant difference between albumin levels determined by SPEP and the traditional chemistry analyzer method (bromcresol green [BCG]) was observed (BCG = 3.38 ± 0.46 g/dL, and SPEP = 3.74 ± 0.43 g/dL, p < 0.0001). Bland-Altman analysis also showed that these two methods were not identical. Notably, several differences were observed between SPEP-derived values using samples from dolphins under human care vs free-ranging dolphins. The total protein was significantly increased in serum from free-ranging dolphins, and the A/G ratio was found to be significantly decreased (under human care: 1.91 ± 0.39 g/dL, free ranging: 1.07 ± 0.39 g/dL, p ≤ 0.05). The latter change was related to a significantly lower albumin fraction and 2.3-fold increase in gamma globulins. In total, this study provides method standardization and preliminary data toward the generation of reference intervals for this species.

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