Featured Image Credit: Deadline News
By: Laura Lillycrop
Dolphins can get one gnarly sunburn too, as this four-year-old bottlenose has unfortunately displayed.
Spirtle hit the headlines last month when she was found beached at Aberdeen Bay. When Spirtle was spotted on the beach at Nigg Bay, she was dangerously close to death.
The two individuals that found the dolphin tried to keep her safe from sunburn by covering her skin with damp blankets. After taking these measures, they called the SSPCA and the British Divers Marine Life Rescue for help.
Featured Image Credit: Lorraine Culloch/Caters /Deadline News
Dr. Andrew Brownlow, of Scotland’s Rural College-run SMASS, said it was “a miracle” the dolphin was found in the first place due to the large expanse of tidal mudflats. He continued:
“This couple had wanted to go to Chanonry Point and got lost. They read their map wrong and ended up on the Nigg peninsula. This whole region dries out almost entirely and they spotted the dolphin flapping in the mud.”
Dr. Brownlow, volunteers from British Divers Marine Life Rescue, the Scottish SPCA, and staff from North 58 Sea Adventures, were involved in rescuing the animal.
Unfortunately, since the refloating of the animal took about 12 hours, the beached dolphin couldn’t avoid the harsh effects of the sun. Before rescuers arrived at the scene, she already had blisters down one side of her body.
SMASS said the blistering on the right side of the juvenile female looked “horrific,” but due to the make-up of dolphins’ skin it was able to endure a burn that other animals might not have survived.
Spirtle has recently been observed about 150 miles away in the Cromarty Firth, playing and trying to capture fish.
The dolphin still carries the gruesome scars from where her skin blistered in the heat. Despite her battered appearance, experts say she’s doing well.
Photo Credit: Source
It is predicted that her skin will continue to heal as she swims in the salty waters. Crucially, the burn does not appear to be infected and shows indications of healing.
As seen in photos taken by researchers from Aberdeen University, the outer layer of her skin is now burnt off, revealing a fresh and pink layer growing underneath.
The damage on her right side is likely caused by sunburn, UV damage and dehydration during the stranding, but her left side is normal,’ researcher Barbara Cheney said. “The edges of it seem to be healing and we hope this will continue. She appeared to be swimming well, though favored her right side when she surfaced.
Marine mammals such as these bottlenose dolphins are more susceptible to sunburn than most other animals. This is primarily caused because they lack a protective layer such as fur, feathers or scales. Dolphins and whales rely on being underwater in order to combat the effects of the sun.
We’re glad that Spirtle is now okay!