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Red Tide suspected in rash of dolphin deaths

About 90 wild dolphins have died in the Panhandle, and two captive dolphins are showing symptoms.

By Associated Press
Published March 25, 2004

PANAMA CITY BEACH - The recent death toll among wild dolphins in the Florida Panhandle climbed to 90 on Wednesday, and two more captive dolphins were sick at Gulf World Marine Park, where a pair of the marine mammals died last week.

Tissue analysis of bottlenose dolphins that died in the wild indicates they were exposed to Red Tide, but more tests are pending to see whether that's what killed them, said Blair Mase, Southeast stranding coordinator for the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The analysis also detected domoic acid, another toxin but one more common to California waters, Mase said.

Red Tide is a higher-than-normal concentration of a naturally occurring algae that can kill fish and other marine life while causing respiratory problems for people. Gulf World dolphins Ripley and Nemo were 10 or 11 months old when they died, and the pair with stomach problems also are younger than 1 year old, Hardy said. They are being treated by staff veterinarians.

The two sick dolphins are not yet showing neurological symptoms, such as body twitching, that Nemo and Ripley experienced, Hardy said.

"Ripley went through this and had neurological signs," he said. "We thought she was fine, and then she died instantly."

None of Gulf World's other five dolphins is showing any symptoms, he said.

[Last modified March 25, 2004, 01:05:44]


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