14 Rough-Toothed Dolphins Found
Dead On Eastern Shore

The Virginian-Pilot

While a large group of pilot whales was heading for Cape Cod beaches to die Monday morning, another mass stranding of marine mammals had taken place on a remote island on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
A mass stranding of 14 rough-toothed dolphins, a species rarely seen close to shore, occurred Sunday on the southern end of Wreck Island, an uninhabited nature preserve owned by the state.
The stranding was reported long after the animals had died, officials said. The Stranding Team from the Virginia Marine Science Museum, accompanied by a dolphin expert from the Smithsonian Institution, went to the barrier island opposite Oyster and examined the animals.
Rough-toothed dolphins get their name from ridges on their teeth. They have narrow heads and sloping foreheads, according to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.
Charles Potter, a Smithsonian marine mammal specialist, said Tuesday that there was no sign of trauma, such as net marks or boat strikes. Although the animals had not eaten recently, they were not emaciated.
``They might have just become trapped, or if one or two of them was ill, it might have been a follow-the-leader sort of thing to the beach,'' Potter said.
They were mostly juveniles, Potter said.
``You get the feeling that if they were older, they might not have ended up like this,'' he said.
Mark Swingle, director of the stranding team, said mass strandings are rare in Virginia. Three rough-toothed dolphins came ashore in Sandbridge in the late 1980s, he said.
They are deep-ocean animals, almost never found close to shore. ``Something must have been wrong,'' Swingle said.


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