Monday, March 1, 2010

Common dolphin necropsy at WHOI laboratory

This Sunday, NECWA staff Krill Carson and intern Leah Horeanopolous participated in a necropsy or autopsy of a common dolphin at the WHOI laboaratory. Dr. Greg Early oversaw the necropsy of this young male that stranded in Wellfleet Harbor the day before. The IFAW Marine Mammal Rescue team has been responding to a number of common dolphin strandings in the Wellfleet area over the past few days. They have successfully rescued quite a few individuals, but a number of dolphins came ashore dead or had to be euthanized for humane reasons.

Leah was able to participate in this necropsy and took the role of lead photographer. Leah's job was to photograph important external and internal features of this individual. These photographs would coordinate with the tissue samples and the written information that was also collected.

Leah also had the opportunity to take up the scalpel and help cut during the necropsy. Leah cut open the stomachs (4-chambered in dolphins) and the intestines looking for the presence of food and internal parasites. She also worked to remove a number of teeth from this individual which will be used for age analysis.

It is always difficult to have to necropsy such a beautiful and majestic animal. But these opportunities can provide valuable information on the health of the individual and the population. And results from necropsies can help determine the cause of death. These activities also provide an amazing opportunity for our interns like Leah who are working toward their degrees in Biology with a Marine Biology emphasis. And working side-by-side with professionals in the field, like Dr. Greg Early, provides an incredible opportunity for these scientists in training.