Dolphins self-heal using coral, new study by scientists

Dolphins self-heal using coral, new study by scientists

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Bottlenose dolphins are capable of self-healing, as are orangutans, chimpanzees, bees, ants, and other organisms. They use coral slime, which contains beneficial bioactive compounds and has antibacterial properties. And with its help, dolphins struggle with skin problems.

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As the IFLS magazine writes, scientists during the study noticed how dolphins lined up to rub themselves against corals. This clearly indicates that they were trying to cure skin diseases. The findings were published in the journal Parasitology and received by wildlife biologist Angela Ziltener from the University of Zurich. She specifically went to sea to get to know the behavior of dolphins and gain their trust.

Corals as a method of self-healing

The fact that dolphins tend to self-medicate was noticed 13 years ago. Then Angela Ziltener watched a herd of Indian bottlenose dolphins rubbing against corals in the Red Sea in Egypt.

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The researcher noted that she had not seen anything like this before. In addition, it was clear that the mammals knew exactly what kind of coral they intended to use. It was amazing and gave me a lot of ideas.

By gaining the trust of the dolphins, Ziltener and her colleagues were able to see which corals were selected. It has also been seen what effect this has on mammals and on the reefs themselves.

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During the action on the corals, that is, the friction against them, the polyps of the invertebrates that live in them are destroyed. As a result, mucus is released.

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Scientists obtained samples of these corals with slime and then carried out all the research in the laboratory. Excreted substances were analyzed, including gorgonian, Sarcophyton sp. and Ircinia sponge. These three reef species contain 17 active metabolites that have antibacterial, hormonal, antioxidant and other beneficial properties. Thus, this mucus is beneficial for the skin and helps to restore it, which is very similar to some of the products that a person uses.

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As researcher Ziltener said, repeated rubbing allows the active substances of the mucus to come into contact with the skin and influence it. They help the skin to recover, as well as heal from microbial infections and carry out prevention.

During the course of the study, it became clear that mammals use corals as often as an ordinary person takes a shower or brushes his teeth. That is, during the day they “smear” their skin with mucus, providing it with proper care.

Scientists hope to continue research in this direction in order to understand which parts of the body are affected by coral rubbing and what diseases they can cure. This will allow you to learn even more about the unique life of these mammals.

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By the way, these are not the first truly unusual results of dolphin research. So, last year it was proved that dolphins have many character traits that humans have. For example, bottlenose dolphins are just as inquisitive, sociable, and friendly. Even earlier it became known that these animals suffer from a skin disease due to climate change, as a result of which it becomes 70% affected.

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