In early April 2011, we began to sight several Area I dolphins with an object(s) hanging off the top back edge of their dorsal fins...it looked like an "hanging earring". We had never sighted it before, while we believe that one of our dolphins, Bangle, may have appeared in the Area with one in February 2009. At that time, we thought it might have been a fish hook.
What was startling this April was how quickly it began appearing on the dolphins in Area I. Of the 70 plus dolphins in the Area...at least 10 now have a "hanging earring" or two.
We contacted Dr. Greg Tolley who is with Florida Gulf Coast University's Marine Biology Department. Through an exchange of photos, Greg identified it as "Xenobalanus globicipitis" , which is a form of barnacle that attaches itself to fast moving marine mammals such as dolphins and whales.
The good news is that they do not harm or feed on their host and can disappear over time. We'll be following with interest as whether we sight more dolphins wearing this form of jewelry in the future.
The following are photos of some of our dolphins with Xeno.