From July 2013 to the present there has been an almost 10-fold increase in the number of reported dolphin strandings and deaths off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, prompting the declaration of an “Unusual Mortality Event”. There have already been >450 dolphin strandings (and > 330 deaths!) thus far in 2013, far higher than the usual ~140 – 160 strandings reported for each of the past 6 years.
Today, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a statement in which they identified cetacean morbillivirus as the disease agent likely responsible for these elevated number of mortalities.
Read more about the dolphin die-offs from the Wired science blog here.
While only a tiny fraction of all viruses are pathogenic, they certainly aren’t helping their public image by targeting beloved charismatic megafauna.