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The 2009 unusual mortality event for bottlenose dolphins: findings and significance

Holyoake, C., Stephens, N., Finn, H. and Bejder, L. (2011) The 2009 unusual mortality event for bottlenose dolphins: findings and significance. In: Swan River Trust Forum, 2 November, Perth, Western Australia.

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In 2009 six bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) were found dead in the Swan Canning river system. Post-mortem findings suggested that the dolphins had impaired immune systems and further testing identified the presence of morbillivirus, tattoo skin disease and high contaminant burdens. Although morbillivirus is one of the most pathogenic viruses in cetaceans and has been implicated in marine mammal mortality events around the world, this is the first time the pathogen has been detected in marine mammals in Western Australia. How did the virus get here and what is its significance for dolphins in the Swan Canning river system? We will examine several theories regarding the presence and significance of morbillivirus infection. Regardless of the mechanism of introduction, it is rarely the case that wild animals are exposed to a single disease-causing agent at a time. Rather, the presentation of disease usually involves an interactive relationship between multiple disease-causing agents, the animal, and environmental factors. Thus, the 2009 dolphin mortalities are best understood as the result of a complex interplay of multiple factors with several significant knowledge gaps remaining.

Item Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
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