July 19th, 2015 (Sarah Knapton). A dolphin which was found in a river in Cornwall has been put down after suffering suspected sunburn.
The 4ft mammal, which had a huge blister on its back, was found by a kayaker stuck in reeds in the Kennall River between Falmouth and Truro on Saturday morning.
It is thought the dolphin was part of a pod which beached at nearby Mylor Harbour on Friday. Several of the common dolphins could not be persuaded back into the sea and travelled up the river.
The blister on its dorsal fin, which was estimated to be the size of a rugby ball, would have left the dolphin open to infections if released back into the wild, resulting in a slow painful death (Ed Sibylline : this hypothesis doesn’t come from “experts” when nothing is known about the origin of this lesion, first and ignoring examples of full recovery into the wild with worst lesions, secondly).
David Jarvis of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue said : “The pathologist wondered if the blister might have been caused by sunburn.”
Tests are now being carried out to confirm the cause of death.
Boat owners are being asked to look out for the rest of the pod following the mass stranding to make sure they do not try to beach themselves again.
“If anyone does see them we would be pleased to hear from them,” added Mr Jarvis.
Animals without fur, feathers or scales are prone to sunburn with whales and dolphins being particularly vulnerable.
A study published by the Royal Society in 2010 found that 95 per cent of whales they tested had suffered skin damage because of ultraviolet radiation.
Species that came up to the surface more often were more likely to suffer damage and lighter species of marine animals were found to be more sensitive to the sun than darker creatures.
A follow up study by Newcastle University found that blue whales actually develop tans as they migrate south in the summer before losing their colouring when they head back north. Sperm whales have proteins that protect their cells from UV damage.
Some scientists believe that as the ozone layer continues to thin whales and dolphins may begin to develop skin cancer.
Elephants and rhinos use mud and water baths to keep the sun at bay. Hippos excrete a pinkish liquid which acts as a sunblock and prevents sunburn.
Update 07/21/2016 : this death was a crime ! See another example…