Today’s Solutions: February 06, 2023

New research suggests that dolphins rub up against coral for more reasons than scratching a hard-to-reach itch. The cetaceans, which are known to rub against the rough surfaces of coral, take naps in coral beds, and enjoy soaking on sponges along the reef may actually be using the coral to treat their skin ailments.

This new information was published last week in a study co-led by a wildlife biologist at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, Angela Ziltener. “It’s very intensive,” Ziltener says of the dolphins’ interactions with particular corals. “They don’t just go through [the coral]—they go up, they come back down again and they rub their belly, their ventral area, and the back.”

Using coral as skincare

Dolphin skin, which is smooth and thick, can still be prone to skin conditions like yeast and bacterial infections, scars, or tattoo-like lesions caused by viral pox infections. Global heating seems to only be making these conditions worse.

Ziltener and her team have been monitoring a community of 360 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) in the northern Red Sea for over a decade. They observed that the dolphins would line up nose-to-tail to rub themselves against the coral as soon as they woke up and right before they went to sleep. The dolphins’ rubbing also caused the corals to release polyp mucus.

Choosing only certain coral species

The scientists also noticed that the dolphins were particular about which coral species they chose and which parts of their body they were rubbing against them. After running tests on 48 samples of corals, sponges, and coral mucus that were “chosen” by the dolphins, the team found that at least 17 different bioactive metabolites with antibacterial, antioxidative, and estrogen-like hormonal properties, all of which could be used in skin treatments.

The team plans to conduct more research on the topic so that they can figure out which coral’s medicinal properties the dolphins need to treat their skin ailments, and whether these properties have a positive impact on the overall health of the dolphins.

The team also hopes to study the corals ignored by dolphins, to see if they lack the same medicinal properties.

Source study: CellEvidence that Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins self-medicate with invertebrates in coral reefs

Solutions News Source Print this article
More of Today's Solutions

What is NEAT and why is it more effective for weight loss than exercise?

"Non-exercise activity thermogenesis," also known as NEAT, is a fancy term for the energy you expend during the day whenever you’re not sleeping, eating, or ...

Read More

These are the 20 best cities world-wide for mental wellbeing

Thanks to modern technology, the world, though still so vast, has for many become smaller. Thanks to these advances, you can wake up in ...

Read More

This gigantic vertical greenhouse uses 100% natural light

Vertical farming is an amazing solution that allows us to grow fresh produce using a fraction of the water and land that traditional agriculture ...

Read More

The many benefits of cultivating intergenerational friendships

Humans tend to gravitate towards or become friends with people our age due to our experiences in school and work. As we age together ...

Read More