23 February 2010

Bottlenose dolphins as human-health sentinels?

Study bottlenose dolphins to better understand human diseases: this was the topic discussed during the session ‘Decoding the secret pathologies of dolphins: significance for human and ocean health’ held at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Diego.

Diseases found in bottlenose dolphins are similar to those found in humans (including diabetes, papilloma virus and RNS-based virus disease) and dolphins diet includes much of the same seafood we consume. All this prompted some researcher to think that these animals can help us discover health effects associated to contaminated coastal water or seafood.

“Our ecological and physiological similarities make dolphins an important ‘sentinel species’ to not only warn us of health risks, but also provide insight into how our health can benefit from new medical discoveries” said Carolyn Sotka of the NOAA Oceans and Human Health Initiative and lead organizer of the session.

Researchers are now investigating whether coastal dolphin populations and human communities sharing the same seafood resources experience similar exposures.


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