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ORLANDO (CBSMiami) – Marine life experts at SeaWorld Orlando think they’ve discovered why a rough-toothed dolphin rescued on June 21st stranded itself on Clearwater Beach.

First they performed a range of tests, from radiographs to blood work, but all the results came back normal. Then they tried something a little different.

“SeaWorld Orlando had a hearing expert come out and test the hearing of our stranded rescued dolphin. From the test we learned that this animal has a significant degree of hearing loss well outside what is the normal range for others of its species and is most likely why this animal stranded in the first place,” said SeaWorld veterinarian Dr. Scott Gearhart.

In dolphins, soft tissue and bone in their lower jaw conveys sound to the ears. The hearing test was conducted by placing electrodes on the dolphin, then different sounds and frequencies were sent to the animal’s jaw to test his response. His reaction to the sounds was measured by the level of brain activity displayed on a monitor. The test is very similar to a human hearing test where sounds are sent through headphones to test a human’s response.

Results of the tests led SeaWorld and National Marine Mammal Foundation experts to believe that the significant degree of hearing loss was the likely cause for his stranding. Rough-toothed dolphins are found in warm climates and in deep waters. They are known to live near Hawaii and the Northern Gulf of Mexico.

When the 200 pound, 7 foot sub adult male dolphin was found it was severely weak. Under Seaworld’s care, it was given fluids and antibiotics. Also, a team of four animal care experts walked beside it 24/7 to help it gain strength.

Since the dolphin has been at SeaWorld, he has shown signs of improvement and is now floating on its own, swimming without support and actively seeking food. SeaWorld Orlando will continue to work closely with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on the next steps for the dolphin’s rehabilitation and care.

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