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The Marine Mammal Center is a nonprofit veterinary hospital, research, and educational center dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of ill and injured marine mammals and the study of their health. Since 1975, the Center has rescued and treated more than 16,500 marine mammals and has accumulated a body of knowledge about marine mammal and ocean health. Through public education about marine mammals, the Center hopes to foster ocean stewardship and conservation. For more information, visit http://www.marinemammalcenter.org/

Monday, August 30, 2010

Learning From Death: Risso's Dolphin

A Risso's dolphin in The Marine Mammal Center necropsy room.

Today the necropsy room was busy with staff conducting research on a Risso's dolphin from Monterey county.

The Risso's dolphin was spotted on August 29th, 2010, at Marina state beach in Marina, California, just north of Sanctuary Resort.

Although it is difficult to see an animal up close that is no longer alive, it is important to remember that we can learn from death. The information gleaned from animals like this one will help other living animals survive and hopefully thrive.

Scientists here at the Center conduct many research projects that can benefit multiple animals in a variety of ways. The information we learn is also used in educational programs.

The Center is careful to use all the information gathered so that even in death, there is life.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tot, a Guadalupe Fur Seal, Wears Her Name Well

Tot, a Guadalupe fur seal, at The Marine Mammal Center.

For such a tiny gal, this little girl fits a lot of charm into a very small package. The dictionary says tot means "babe", "angel" and "darling": all of these descriptions fit Tot perfectly. A little charmer, Tot has captured the hearts of the volunteers and staff during her hospital stay.

Tot is a Guadalupe fur seal. This kind of fur seal is found in Mexico and sometimes off of the California coast. Once there were many of them in California, but they almost became extinct due to hunting for their fur. With protection from the US and Mexican governments, there are now estimated to be over 7,000 Guadalupe fur seals.

Tot was originally released by The Marine Mammal Center on July 18, 2010, by boat just eight miles off of the Farallones islands.

Then, Tot was spotted a mere thirteen days later on Ocean Beach in San Francisco. This is called a "re-strand" at the Center. Emaciated and lethargic, Tot was being approached repeatedly by both people and dogs.

The Center rescued Tot and brought her to the Center for medical evaluation and treatment. Now Tot has gained enough weight and strength to return to her ocean home. Soon she will be released back into the wild. Safe travels, Tot!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

"Sleeptight": Don't Let the (Bed) Bugs Bite!

A mite under the microscope.

An x-ray of Sleeptight.

Sleeptight is a juvenile male California sea lion admitted to The Marine Mammal Center on July 18th. The animal was very underweight and on physical examination it was apparent he had pneumonia. His lab work showed a very high level of immunoglobulins in the blood, and radiographs confirmed a severe inflammatory reaction in the lungs. The weight loss and the elevated immunoglobulin levels indicated that this problem had been going on for quite some time. Although pneumonia itself is not uncommon, it is unusual to see severe pneumonia in such a young animal.

Vet staff decided to check for slow growing organisms like fungi or even odd things like cancer cells that have spread to the lungs, but they didn’t expect to see what they found.

Center staff ruled out fungi by doing some blood tests. The vet staff and volunteers treated Sleeptight with antibiotics to see if there would be a response to treatment indicating a bacterial pneumonia. Sleeptight didn’t get any better.

They took a look inside the airways and down into the small bronchioles of the lungs with a bronchoscope. The answer was surprising: Mites! Bugs living in the airways! This explained both the lung inflammation and the nature of the chronic change.

Lung mites are rarely reported in pinnipeds or other mammals. There are some lung mites in monkeys, apes, snakes, and birds, but they aren’t seen very often in seals and sea lions. These mites are most likely Orthohalarhacne diminuta related to the common nasal mite, but living in the lungs. There are rare scattered reports of finding them in the airways of fur seals, and at least one sea lion in Germany in 1973.

The good news is that with the correct diagnosis and the subsequent correct treatment, Sleeptight's prognosis is good. Here's to a good night's sleep for Sleeptight here at the Center...