It turned out that dolphins are self-medicating with the help of corals
Dolphins never cease to amaze scientists with their abilities. More recently, we learned that these marine mammals can recognize each other by taste. And here is another amazing discovery — bottlenose dolphins have discovered knowledge in medicine. Scientists have found that dolphins of this species are able to cure themselves of skin diseases using the gifts of the sea.
Self-medication is not uncommon in the animal world. It is well known that dogs eat herbs for stomach problems. Chimpanzees and orangutans also have some knowledge of medicinal plants. No one knew about such abilities of dolphins until recently.
Even 13 years ago, oceanographer Angela Ziltener from the University of Zurich noticed that Indian bottlenose dolphins rub against corals near the reefs of the Red Sea. The scientist noticed that the animals carefully choose corals and seem to know exactly what they are looking for. In some places bottlenose dolphins lined up to rub against a colony of polyps.
Ziltener was interested in this phenomenon, but it took a lot of time to solve it. But the answer to the riddle was still received years later. Scientists have learned that dolphins rub against corals to destroy them and get mucus. It is the allocation of damaged polyps that interests bottlenose dolphins.
Laboratory analysis of mucus showed that Gorgonaria, Sarcophyton and Ircinia sponges secrete a substance containing 17 bioactive compounds. They have antibacterial and antioxidant properties, and dolphins know about it. Bottlenose dolphins rub against corals, trying to get as much mucus on the skin as possible. It helps dolphins get rid of skin ailments, heal wounds and just make the skin healthier.
Active metabolites from coral secretions interact with dolphin skin cells. This is an excellent prevention against most microbial skin infections to which these animals are susceptible. Scientists have found that rubbing against corals is the same for bottlenose dolphins as for people showering or brushing their teeth. They do this procedure regularly, sometimes even several times a day.