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Mote Opens Dolphin Bone Exhibit

Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium new exhibit honors Ruth DeLynn for her continued work and research on dolphin bone structure and deformities.

 opened a new exhibit Saturday highlighting the Ruth DeLynn Cetacean Osteological collection — a vast collection of dolphin and whale bones at Mote.

DeLynn is the Mote adjunct scientist and volunteer who founded the Osteological Collection and has curated it for more than 30 years.

The collection contains more than 650 bone specimens from 17 species of dolphin and whale, and this exhibit gives visitors a snippet of that collection by explaining dolphin bone structure, which includes a skeleton from a Sarasota Bay dolphin, along with an interactive display of bone deformities

“It’s an immense honor to have this collection recognized — not just as a unique resource for scientists around the world, but as a tool for educating the public about the lives and deaths of dolphins and whales,” DeLynn said in a press release. “The most valuable thing about this collection is that others can learn from it.”

The collection was honored in July 2011 with accreditation from the nationwide American Society of Mammalogists.

The accreditation is the highest seal of approval for such collections and marks the Osteological Collection as a treasured scientific resource.

Most of the specimens in the collection are bottlenose dolphins, including 68 from the local Sarasota Bay resident population studied since 1970 by the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program — a collaboration between Mote and the Chicago Zoological Society. Through this Program, scientists study the life history, health, habitat use, environmental contaminant concentrations and behavior of Sarasota Bay dolphins. 

And, when the animals die, Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program helps to recover the carcasses in order to gain a better understanding of the factors that lead to dolphins’ deaths. Once necropsies (animal autopsies) are performed, the bones are then cleaned and catalogued in the DeLynn Collection and available for still further study.

The new exhibit is on display for visitors from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., 365 days per year at Mote Aquarium, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway in Sarasota. Aquarium admission is $17 for adults, $16 for seniors over 65, $12 for children ages 4-12 and free for children ages 3 and younger. Mote Members always get in free.

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