Scientists watch how dolphins take care of their skin underwater

Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins take their skin care seriously. Marine mammals treat her

by rubbing certain kinds of corals and sponges. They produce substances that help protect dolphin skin from infections.

For the first time, scientists have seen how animals rub againstGorgonian corals (Rumphella aggregata) in the Red Sea off the coast of Egypt. The researchers suspected that dolphins might use them to self-medicate, as gorgonians are known to secrete mucus with antimicrobial properties. Later, scientists noticed that bottlenose dolphins also use Sarcophyton corals and Ircinia sponges. These other invertebrates also produce biologically active substances.

In a new study, scientists have identified more than a dozen bioactive compounds produced by these corals and sponges that help keep dolphins' skin healthy.

Also, as part of the new work, scientists observed the life of bottlenose dolphins and filmed them. As a result, the team drew conclusions about the typical behavior patterns of dolphins.

Animals often lined up one after another inturn to rub against the corals. When the dolphins did this particularly vigorously, their skin sometimes turned a "bright" yellowish or greenish color due to compounds secreted by the invertebrates, the study authors write.

The researchers not only collected photographs andvideo with bottlenose dolphins, but also took samples of corals and sponges, which animals preferred. Back in the lab, they studied them using high-resolution mass spectrometry.

Chemists evaluated the bioactive properties of eachcompounds in corals and sponges. It turned out that some of them have an antibacterial effect against both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. Some of the substances acted as antioxidants, while others exhibited estrogen-like effects. This helped hydrate the dolphin's skin and make it supple.

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