Dolphins travel to coral'clinics' to treat skin infections

Dolphins travel to coral'clinics' to treat skin infections ...

Dolphins arrive in the Northern sea off the coast of Egypt, waiting for their medications.

Their clinics? Corals.

Bottlenose dolphins from the Indo-Pacific have been found to be rubbing themselves against corals, which helps them heal their skin problems.

According to reports from iScience, these corals have medicinal properties, suggesting that dolphins are using the marine invertebrates to treat skin problems.

Isn''t it unfavorable?

The phenomenon was first identified three years ago.

Where it all began

Angela Ziltener, a wildlife biologist at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, first discovered dolphins sticking against coral in the Egyptian Northern Red Sea. She immediately noticed that the dolphins were selective about the corals they rubbed against. That kind of intuition required a reply.

"I hadn''t seen this coral rubbing technique previously, and it was evident that the dolphins knew exactly what coral they wanted to use," says Ziltener. "I thought, ''There must be a reason.''

The water is being used in most dolphin surveys, especially on the surface. Ziltener was a diver, and it gave her the advantage to discover dolphins up close.

It took a while to gain the trust of the pod, which she was able to do because these dolphins were not fazed by the large bubbles released by diving tanks and habituated towards divers.

Some dolphins, like spinner dolphins in the Southern Egyptian Red Sea, are less concerned about bubbles, according to the author.

Ziltener and her colleagues discovered that by repeatedly rubbing against the corals, bottlenose dolphins agitated the tiny polyps that make up the coral community, and these invertebrates released mucus.

Solid protection against microbial infections

The mucus'' properties must be understood, and the researchers then collected samples of the coral.

Gertrud Morlock, an analytical chemist and food scientist at Justus Liebig University in Germany, combined with on-surface assays and high-resolution mass spectrometry to analyze samples of the gorgonian coralRumphella aggregata,the leather coralSarcophyton sp.

17 active substances with antibacterial, antioxidative, hormonal, and toxic properties have been identified, according to their findings.

The discovery of these bioactive compounds has led the team to believe that the corals and sponges are regulating the dolphin skins microbiome and treat infections. According to Morlock, repeated rubbing allows the active metabolites to enter contact with the skin of the dolphins. These metabolites may help them achieve skin homeostasis and be beneficial for prophylaxis or auxiliary treatment against microbial infections.

The dolphins need a safe space too

These reefs serve as playgrounds and bedrooms for dolphin people in the country.

Dolphins often wake up after being taken off to perform the coral rubbing behaviors. Its almost like they are showering and cleaning themselves before they go to sleep or get up for the day, according to Ziltener.

Ziltener has noticed an alarming trend since she began researching dolphins in Egypt in 2009.

In the past, the tourism industry has spent a lot of money on dolphin swimming. People are considering swimming with the dolphins, thus they are considering which reefs they use, and leaving them disorientated if they do not follow the guidelines for using them responsibly.

She was so concerned that she sifted into a conservation group called Dolphin Watch Alliance, which educates and informs tour guides, tourists, and the public on how to provide tourist experiences that are safe for dolphins. The group also argues for the reefs to become protected areas.

As long as the reefs remain a safe place for dolphins, Ziltener and her team can continue to investigate coral rubbing and identify which corals are being utilized for specific body parts.

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