Sunday, June 17, 2007

Deaf dolphin gives birth

A stranded, deaf dolphin delivered her calf Monday at a marine mammal rehabilitation center, and officials hope a dolphin "chat line" they've installed will teach the baby dolphin to vocalize normally.
The Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, named Castaway, has been vocalizing to her unnamed calf, but officials at the Marine Mammal Conservancy say that's not enough for it to learn proper dolphin-speak.

"Castaway's vocalizations are not normal," conservancy president Robert Lingenfelser said. "She speaks in a monotone, similar to the way that people who cannot hear speak."

So officials have electronically linked Castaway's habitat with a lagoon at Dolphins Plus, a research and interactive educational facility a few miles away. Underwater speakers and microphones have been installed at both locations so the calf can communicate with hearing dolphins.

The 42-inch-long, 30-pound calf is swimming well and breathing normally, Lingenfelser said. Officials don't plan to release it, because the first few months of a dolphin's development are a critical time for it to learn self-preservation.

Castaway became stranded in November but was initially deemed healthy enough for release after convalescing at a marine lab in Sarasota. But instead of swimming offshore, she returned to the beach three times before she was taken to the Keys.


Marine Mammal Conservancy:

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"