How can dolphin poo save the coral reefs?
In a new study, researchers found that dolphin poo may hold the key to saving coral reefs around the world.
There is something very special about spinner dolphin excrement, the animals that are famous for their acrobatic marina displays. According to a report by the Zoological Society London (ZSL), their poo contains “reef-enhancing nutrients.”
Dolphins poo in shallow lagoons in the Maldives and Chagos Archipelago, helping to save threatened coral reefs. The study published this week found that spinner dolphins can enhance coral reef productivity and resilience by absorbing nitrogen during their daily commute.
What are Spinner Dolphins?
Spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris) are small species of dolphin that are found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world. They are known for their spinning behavior, which is where they get their name from. Spinner dolphins are very social animals and live in groups called pods. They feed on a variety of fish and squid and can reach speeds of up to 20 miles per hour.
Where do spinner dolphins live and what do they eat?
Spinner dolphins have a long, thin snout and are about 6.5 feet tall (around 2 meters). White stomachs and dark gray backs make them easy to spot in warm ocean waters around the world, including around Thailand, Central America, and Hawaii.
IUCN does not classify this species as endangered, but it faces threats including ghost net entanglements, collisions with ships, noise disturbances, habitat degradation, and human activity.
Why did scientists discover dolphin poo was special?
Scientists in the Maldives monitored spinner dolphins using a combination of underwater recordings and visual observations. This area is home to around 105 spinners.
It was observed that dolphins entered atoll lagoons (ring-shaped coral reefs) in the morning, and then rested for half the day before leaving in the afternoon to hunt and forage in deeper waters.
According to conservationists, each dolphin pod excretes 288 kg – about the weight of 3-4 adults – of reef-enhancing nitrogen during the first half of the day.
The dolphins provide corals with vital nutrients by using the shallow lagoons of the atolls as their toilets.
Watch this amusing video of dolphins pooping on a tour guide:
What Are Coral Reefs?
Coral reefs are like a city under the sea. They are made up of lots of different kinds of animals that all work together to create a big community. The animals in a coral reef help to keep the reef healthy by eating the bad things and cleaning it up.
Coral reefs are one of the most diverse and beautiful ecosystems on Earth. They form when coral polyps attach to a hard surface, such as a rock, and secrete a calcium carbonate skeleton. Over time, this skeleton can grow into a coral reef.
Coral reefs are home to thousands of species of plants and animals, including fish, crabs, sea turtles, and dolphins. They provide important economic and environmental benefits to coastal communities.
What is the importance of coral reefs?
Over 6 million people depend on coral reef ecosystems for their livelihoods, which support the majority of biodiversity in the oceans. As well as protecting coastlines from storms and erosion, they provide jobs for local communities and provide holiday activities for tourists.
A great deal of biodiversity is supported by the ecosystems they form in tropical regions such as the Chagos Archipelago.
Maldivians rely on coral reefs to survive in the Maldives, where clear, pristine waters are often unproductive. Despite their importance for both humans and marine life, these habitats are under threat from the current biodiversity crisis. Reefs suffer extreme stress due to climate change, leading to coral bleaching and mass mortality.
Various stressors, such as changes in temperature, light, and nutrients, can cause corals to bleach. The coral bleaching problem is important because once these corals die, the reef is unlikely to recover.