Reading the news today, I’m really glad I’m not an ocean-dwelling animal. Earlier this morning I read MNN blogger Karl Burkhard’s post about a massive fish kill in Louisina’s Bayou Chaland — the true reasons for which seem to remain unknown. Then I found out that closer to home, many of California’s dolphins are suffering from skin lesions — also for as-of-yet unknown causes.

Apparently, skin lesions are plaguing about 90 percent of bottlenose dolphins in Monterey Bay. That’s according to a report by a team of researchers from Okeanis, a Monterey Bay-based nonprofit focused on environmental research and conservation, who studied the dolphins between 2006 and 2008. The report was published in AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment earlier this year.

Why do so many of these dolphins sport skin lesions? The cause isn’t clear, but Daniela Maldini, the lead researcher on the report, said the first suspects are “contaminants such as pesticides, heavy metals, organochlorines and fire retardants,” according to NewScientist. The report’s introduction reveals why bottleneck dolphins could be especially affected by these types of pollutants:

Contaminants in particular, through the process of bio-magnification, can accumulate at levels highly toxic to cetaceans and depress the immune system, exacerbating the severity of clinical signs.
Other reasons for the skin lesions could be “environmental factors such as water salinity and temperature,” according to the report — so global climate change could be playing a role in the dolphins’ ailments too.

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