• picture
  • picture
  • picture
  • picture
Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Dolphins May Use Corals for Skin Care

Air Date: Week of

Dolphins may use corals to help keep their skin healthy. (Photo: photo_teria on Pixnio)

While diving in the Red Sea, researchers noticed bottlenose dolphins taking turns brushing their bodies against certain corals. As Living on Earth’s Don Lyman reports, scientists hypothesize that it helps the dolphins maintain healthy skin.


LYMAN: While diving in the Red Sea, researchers from the University of Zurich often noticed Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins lining up to take turns brushing their bodies against certain corals or sea sponges. The scientists reported in iScience that the dolphins may use corals and sponges for possible medicinal purposes, and hypothesized that the rubbing could help dolphins maintain healthy skin. Recordings of the dolphins shows members of the pod utilizing corals like a bath brush, swimming by to rub various parts of their bodies. The researchers said the dolphins appear to pick out certain corals, primarily rubbing against gorgonian corals (Rumphella aggregata), leather corals (Sarcophyton sp.), and a species of sea sponge in the genus Ircinia. The scientists analyzed one-centimeter slices of wild corals and sponges, and identified 17 chemical compounds, including 10 with antibacterial or antimicrobial activity. Researchers hypothesize that as the dolphins rub against the corals they release compounds into the water that help protect the animals from skin irritations or infections. Dolphins are not unique in seeking out nature’s pharmacy. Scientists have observed self-medicating behaviors in chimps, certain bird species, and elephants. Future research with dolphins might try to determin if the dolphins are utilizing corals and sponges to prevent skin problems, or if they’re treating active skin infections. The researchers also plan to figure out if dolphins prefer to rub specific body parts on specific corals. That’s this week’s note on emerging science. I’m Don Lyman.



Science News | “These Dolphins May Turn to Corals for Skin Care”

Read the study


Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

Living on Earth
62 Calef Highway, Suite 212
Lee, NH 03861
Telephone: 617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Newsletter [Click here]

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.

Creating positive outcomes for future generations.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.

Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth