Bacterial Species Identified on the Skin of Bottlenose Dolphins Off Southern California via Next Generation Sequencing Techniques


The dermis of cetaceans is in constant contact with microbial species. Although the skin of the bottlenose dolphin provides adequate defense against most disease-causing microbes, it also provides an environment for microbial community development. Microbial community uniqueness and richness associated with bottlenose dolphin skin is a function of varying habitats and changing environmental conditions. The current study uses ribosomal DNA as a marker to identify bacteria found on the skin of coastal and offshore bottlenose dolphins off of Southern California. The unique microbial communities recovered from these dolphins suggest a greater microbial diversity on the skin of offshore ecotype bottlenose dolphins, while microbial populations associated with the coastal ecotype include species that are more closely related to each other and that suggest exposure to communities that are likely to be associated with terrestrial runoff.

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The authors gratefully acknowledge an award to DJG from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management through their Coastal Impact Assistance Program administered by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources that supported CDR. The authors would also like to acknowledge the kind support for sequencing supplied by the JCVI.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to D. Jay Grimes.

Ethics declarations

Standard protocols for projectile biopsy sampling were followed to obtain skin and blubber samples from large research ships or small boats conducting research in the Southern California Bight [17]. Bottlenose dolphin samples from San Diego, CA (coastal and offshore), bottlenose dolphins, were collected under National Marine Fisheries Service Scientific Research Permit No. 774-1714, issued to the Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Russo, C.D., Weller, D.W., Nelson, K.E. et al. Bacterial Species Identified on the Skin of Bottlenose Dolphins Off Southern California via Next Generation Sequencing Techniques. Microb Ecol 75, 303–309 (2018).

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  • Microbiome
  • Bottlenose dolphin
  • Indicator species
  • Oceans and health
  • Cetaceans