Mystery deaths of dolphins, whales off Tuscany


Share post:

Thirty-two dolphins and two whales have been found dead off the Tuscan coast since the beginning of the year, the Italian region’s environmental protection agency said last week.

Mystery deaths of dolphins, whales off Tuscany
Some of the dead cetaceans were bottlenose dolphins [Credit: AFP]

Autopsies showed many had stopped feeding, suggesting they had been hit by a virus, possibly measles, experts said.

Over just four days at the end of July the bodies of six dolphins were found, the agency’s spokesman Marco Talluri told AFP.

“We analysed the stomachs of eight specimens and found that they were half empty, as if the animals had not eaten for two or three days,” said Italian biologist Cecilia Mancusi, an expert from the ARPAT environmental agency.

The dead cetaceans included bottlenose and stenella dolphins and a sperm whale.

“This could indicate that the dolphins had not been doing well for some time, and that it could be a virus like measles, which caused hundreds of dolphin deaths throughout Italy in 2013,” she was quoted as saying by the Corriere della Sera daily.

Results of tests performed on the carcases were not expected before the end of August.

Gianna Fabi, a researcher at the Institute for Biological Resources and Marine Biotechnology, who studied a similar phenomenon in June with 14 dolphins dying in the Adriatic over three weeks, said the cause was unlikely to be plastics or pollution.

“In both cases, traces would have been found in the body,” she told AGI news agency.

It could be that high temperatures, or heavy rains that lower the salinity of the sea, have sparked an epidemic, she said.

A 2008 to 2018 study found that on average around 18 marine mammals are found dead each year off Tuscany.

The area is part of the Pelagos Sanctuary for the protection of marine mammals, which was created by France, Italy and Monaco in 1999 and covers an area of 87,500 square kilometres.

Source: AFP [August 02, 2019]



Related articles

Human-tiger conflict: Are the risks overestimated?

A new study finds a complex web of factors increases perceived risk of tiger attack in the Sundarbans...

Growing Antarctic ice sheet caused ancient Mediterranean to dry up

An international research team led by a scientist at New Zealand's University of Otago has resolved the mystery...

Rediscovery of early 20th century ecotheology

The vast majority of us subscribe to the idea that human activity dramatically changes the natural environment, altering...

Most flammable boreal forests in North America become more so

A 2,000-square-kilometer zone in the Yukon Flats of interior Alaska -- one of the most flammable high-latitude regions...

What makes rainforests unique? History, not ecology

History and geology, not current ecology, are likely what has made tropical forests so variable from site to...

Threatened birds and mammals have irreplaceable roles in the natural world

A new study led from the University of Southampton has shown that threatened birds and mammals are often...

Arctic sea ice during the Pliocene Era

New research by UM bioclimatology Assistant Professor Ashley Ballantyne models the influence of Arctic sea ice on Arctic...

Habitat loss is bad news for species – especially for top predators

Scientists at Linkoping University, Sweden, have simulated what happens in ecosystems when the habitats of different species disappear....