This Atlantic white-sided dolphin suffered from parasite infestation that likely interfered with its ability to navigate, causing it to be separated from its pod, officials said.

An Atlantic white-sided dolphin that died on a Kittery beach last week had an enormous amount of parasites in its sinus cavity, which likely contributed to its death.

Tony LaCasse, a spokesman for the New England Aquarium, said a necropsy done on the 350-pound adult male over the Memorial Day weekend revealed the infestation.

LaCasse said the high concentration of parasites is believed to have affected its navigation skills, causing it to be separated from other dolphins it was swimming with. Dolphins are highly social animals and most often travel together.

“It’s not a good sign if a dolphin is alone,” he said.

Marine Mammals of Maine was notified last Friday afternoon that a white-sided dolphin could be seen “thrashing” in the waters off Fort Foster in Kittery. Fort Foster is on Gerrish Island and has three small beaches.

By the time rescue workers arrived, the dolphin had died. The Kittery Fire Department helped move it onto the beach where Lynda Doughty, executive director of Marine Mammals of Maine, examined it.

“It was such a beautiful animal,” Doughty said of the dolphin, which measured 8 feet long. Doughty said she contacted the New England Aquarium for assistance because she did not have the resources to do a necropsy last weekend.

Doughty said that some onlookers expressed surprise that a dolphin, rather than a seal or whale, died onshore. But Doughty and LaCasse say dolphins are commonly seen on whale watching tours.

“We have thousands of dolphins in the Gulf of Maine year-round,” LaCasse said.

White-sided dolphins are one of the two most common species in New England waters, with most beaching incidents occurring on Cape Cod.

The dolphins feast on herring, mackerel and squid and are considered fairly acrobatic.

LaCasse said the dolphin in Kittery appears to have died quickly.

“It’s just a little bit of the cycle of nature that we don’t often get to see,” he said.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]

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