The stranded dolphin that was found near the Cape Charles pier (in early May) and transported to the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, has been examined by the facility’s research team. The Cape Charles Mirror contacted the Virginia Aquarium and received the following information from Dr. Alexander Costidis, Stranding Response Coordinator for the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center:
-What was the approximate age of the animal: We do not know the age of the animal because determining that requires a lengthy process of aging the teeth. The dolphin was an immature male dolphin. Based on the size of the animal, it was likely between 1 and 3 years old.
-What were the conditions of the organs, such as lungs and heart (brain?): The animal had a moderate degree of autolysis (decomposition) but the organs were still intact and were examined in detail. There was evidence of an active infection, including a brain abscess.
-Was there evidence of human interaction: There was evidence of net entanglement observed in numerous locations along the body of the dolphin.
-Was there evidence of a virus (morbillivirus): There were numerous interesting pathologies found within, but the cause of these pathologies may have been multifactorial. Ulcerative skin lesions like those seen recently in numerous dolphins were present on this individual. Further diagnostics, including attempts to verify the presence and if so the identity of a virus are ongoing but not yet completed.
As of this publishing, the identity of the virus has not been determined. According to Dr. Costidis, “Unfortunately diagnostic analyses typically take a good bit longer than we would like. We likely won’t have results for weeks or months. Even once we get results, unless we get a positive ID early on, it may take even longer to get to an answer. Unfortunately viruses (if that is what we are dealing with) are not quite like bacteria in the way they multiply, so we cannot culture them and get a quick answer the way we do with bacteria”.
In the summer of 2013, an outbreak of morbillivirus caused hundreds of strandings all along the East Coast.