Humans Aren't The Only Mammals To Use A Skin Care Routine

As soon as humans reach adolescence, it seems they can't turn in any direction without being bombarded with skincare advertisements, each product promising to work a different miracle. Nowadays, a popular promise made by skin care companies is the ability to fight against the effects of pollution. Pollutants that we face every day can cause skin conditions like premature aging, psoriasis, acne, and other medical problems, according to the National Library of Medicine.

The harsh realities of pollution affect more than just people. They impact the entire planet. Yet until recently, humans seemed to be the only ones who intentionally tried to combat pollution's effects on their skin. As it turns out, humans aren't alone in the act of a skin care regimen. The ocean is taking a massive hit from the rising temperatures on Earth. Dolphins are trying to adapt the best they can, it seems, and there's evidence that they have their own under-the-sea skincare routine.

Bottlenose dolphins practice skincare at morning and at night

A team of wildlife biologists from the University of Zurich, Switzerland, have been studying hundreds of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins in the Read Sea since 2009. While observing these mammals, the team discovered that each morning and evening, the dolphins have a routine of lining up near a specific species of coral, the gorgonian coral. Each dolphin uses the coral to scratch and rub particular parts of its body before allowing the next dolphin in line to do the same, according to a study published in iScience.

The corals the dolphins chose were collected by the biologists to be studied. It was found that the corals contained active metabolites, which, when rubbed against the skin, can help relieve skin conditions, including infections. The dolphin's routine of rubbing against this coral each morning and night is evidence of them self-medicating, according to the study published in iScience. Dolphins aren't the only species to use coral for medicinal benefits. According to the National Ocean Service, coral reef plants and animals are being used in medicine to treat ailments, including cancers, skin conditions, Alzheimer's, heart disease, and more.

Pollutants are causing skin disease in dolphins

Dolphins are among millions of ocean inhabitants suffering the effects of the climate crisis. The Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin, in particular, has been struggling with skin conditions like lobomycosis. Lobomycosis is a chronic disease of the skin caused by a yeast-like organism called Lacasia loboi (per a study published in the National Library of Medicine). The same study states that the observed community of dolphins has been suffering lesions from this skin condition since at least 1999.

The presence of the condition has been related to climate change and adverse effects on the coastal environment from factors like rapid urbanization, untreated freshwater runoffs, and expanding agriculture. Another study published by Nature details a disease affecting bottlenose dolphins called freshwater skin disease. This can cause painful lesions and even death for the dolphins. The study notes that environmental factors heavily influence the cases of freshwater skin disease.

So while it may seem like an adorable coincidence that dolphins take care of their skin like a human, as it turns out, they're just trying to find relief from the pain and irritants they can't avoid in their home under the sea.