Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Atlantic white-sided dolphin necropsy at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Yesterday, NECWA staff members, Dominica and Krill, assisted with the necropsy of an Atlantic white-sided dolphin that had stranded and died on the shores of Truro, MA. This necropsy was conducted down at the Marine Mammal Research Facility, which is part of the Marine Mammal Center at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

This effort was a join activity that involved the IFAW Marine Mammal Rescue and Research Program (IFAW MMRR) and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). Leading the team once again was Misty Niemeyer from IFAW's MMRR and Dr. Michael Moore from WHOI.

The first step in any necropsy is to document through photographs any unusual features, cuts or marks on the body. Then the team works to measure the animal, collecting a series of standardized body lengths and widths. After this work is done, the team dissects the carcass and examines various tissues, bones and internal body organs.

It is always very sad when a beautiful animal like this dolphin strands and dies on our Cape beaches. But these types of examinations provide vital information that will help scientists like Misty and Dr. Michael Moore possibly determine the cause of death for this young Atlantic white-sided dolphin. And necropsies allow researchers to collect tissues and other samples that will be analyzed in the coming months. Many of the samples collected yesterday will be sent or provided to other researchers who are studying various aspects of dolphin biology and ecology.

A big thank you to Misty and Dr. Michael Moore for inviting Dominica and Krill to participate in this very important activity. Each time we assist with necropsies, we learn more about these amazing animals that share our New England Coastal waters.