Coral Clinics

Does coral serve a PORPOISE for dolphins?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

When you get sick, you probably go to the doctor. But how do sea creatures treat their ailments?

Enter Gertrud Morlock from Justus Liebig University of Giessen and team. They dove into the question – literally.

The researchers explored the Red Sea off the Egyptian coast. There, they observed hundreds of dolphins exhibiting peculiar behavior – they were rubbing their bodies against coral! This caused the corals to release mucus into the water. The scientists collected and tested these coral mucus samples. 

Results? The researchers found that the mucus has several medicinal properties! Think anti-bacterial, antioxidative, and hormonal compounds. When dolphins rub the coral, it keeps their skin healthy and can even treat bacterial infections!

The researchers’ conclusion? It’s important to protect corals so dolphins can continue to thrive.

For dolphins, a coral a day keeps the doctor away! And it makes a great back scratcher! Ahhhhhh.

Reference: Morlock, G. E., Ziltener, A., Geyer, S., Tersteegen, J., Mehl, A., Schreiner, T., … Brümmer, F. (2022). Evidence that Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins self-medicate with invertebrates in coral reefs. IScience, 104271.