The bottlenose dolphin die-off that began in July has been traveling steadily south with migrating Atlantic herds, and now diseased and dead dolphins are turning up in Florida. The culprit, a measles-like virus, has claimed 753 victims and counting, making this the worst outbreak ever recorded. Recently, the bug has also been spotted in two species of whale.
Three humpback whales and two pygmy whales, stranded and decaying, tested positive for the dolphin morbillivirus, preliminary sequencing has confirmed. NOAA researchers are doing more tests to find out if it was the virus, usually rare in these animals, that killed them.
"Most of them are very decomposed," Teri Rowles, of the NOAA Fishers Marine Mammal Stranding Response Program, told reporters on a teleconference call Friday. This has made observing the appearance of the disease in tissue samples harder, she said.