, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 576–582 | Cite as

Epidermal Lesions and Injuries of Coastal Dolphins as Indicators of Ecological Health

  • Stephen C. Y. Chan
  • Leszek KarczmarskiEmail author
Short Communication


Humpback dolphins (genus Sousa), obligatory inshore delphinids, are frequently exposed to adverse effects of many human activities. In Hong Kong, one of the world’s most urbanised coastal regions, ~ 50% of the dolphins suffer from at least one type of epidermal lesions, likely related to anthropogenically degraded habitat. Furthermore, one in every ten dolphins has physical injuries indicative of vessel collisions, propeller cuts and fishing-gear entanglements. As top predators with long lifespan, dolphins are good “barometers” of marine environment and their compromised health conditions are symptomatic of increasingly degraded ecological conditions of coastal seas, especially in rapidly developing regions of fast-growing economies.


Skin lesions Physical injuries Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin Sousa chinensis Ecological health indicators Anthropogenic pressure Hong Kong–Pearl River Estuary 



We thank Derek Ho, Carmen Or, Wei-Lun Chang, Andy Lee, Ivan Lam, Scott Chui, Simon Wong, Ricky Tang, Ruiqiang Zheng, Wenzhi Lin and Angelico Tiongson for participating in data collection and processing, and Grant Abel for providing the photograph for Figure 2a. The work was supported by the Research Grants Council (RGC) of Hong Kong (General Research Fund HKU 17100015M), Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong (OPCFHK, MM01_1415), and the Marine Ecology Enhancement Fund (MEEF2017015 and MEEF2017015A).


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Copyright information

© EcoHealth Alliance 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of Hong KongPok Fu LamHong Kong
  2. 2.Cetacean Ecology LabCetacea Research InstituteLantauHong Kong

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