Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins

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Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins

Monitoring the Health of Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins and Our Ecosystem

Georgia Aquarium is committed to the research and preservation of aquatic animals around the world, including the bottlenose dolphin. Aquarium researchers have led and participated in the bottlenose dolphin Health and Environmental Risk Assessment Project (HERA) since 2003. The HERA Project aims in part to develop standardized tools for health and risk assessment, and to explore associations between health status and the environmental stressors. Our research team has studied more than 360 individual dolphins, and our work has resulted in more than 90 scientific publications on the health of wild dolphins.

The study focuses on bottlenose dolphins in two nearby coastal regions - Charleston, South Carolina and Florida's Indian River Lagoon. Studying the dolphins' health can help us monitor the overall health of their ecosystem and may provide valuable information on animal and human health, because bottlenose dolphins serve as a sentinel species for ocean and human health. We also use health information from the dolphins in our care at Georgia Aquarium to give us additional insight about the health of their wild counterparts.

HERA plays an important role in understanding the health of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins and the possible threats facing the lagoon ecosystem. Applying our expert animal and veterinary care at the Aquarium into Florida and South Carolina waters helps maximize the research collected from dolphin health assessments and ultimately ensure that these magnificent marine mammals thrive in their natural environment.

Recently, we learned that the environment plays a large role in the endocrine and immune response of wild dolphins. Many of those animals are encountering countless pathogens, parasites and anthropogenic pollutants (toxins introduced by human activity). This research will open the doors to additional studies on the impacts the environment is making on overall dolphin health, what this means for the health of our oceans and how this might already be affecting people living in these regions.

Want to learn more? Check out some of our blog posts about our HERA research.

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