[MARMAM] Information on hemochromatosis in dolphins

Stephanie Venn-Watson stephanie.venn-watson at nmmpfoundation.org
Thu Sep 17 14:14:26 PDT 2015

Greetings MARMAM,

Hemochromatosis (also called iron overload) is a condition in humans
and other animals involving high iron in the body. It often goes
undetected with no clinical signs for decades, but can become
clinically relevant when a person is 30 to 50 years old. Because
managed dolphins are increasingly living to this age, investigating
hemochromatosis has been part of our geriatric dolphin health research
program. In our most recent study, more than 1 in 4 dolphins in the
wild had hemochromatosis. After studying this condition in both
populations for some time, however, we think we have a solution - a
trace saturated fatty acid called C17:0 present in varying levels in
fish - that may protect against and reverse hemochromatosis in
dolphins. We are assessing this potential solution with the help of
zoological parks and aquariums. Our scientists are now working with
leaders in metabolism at Salk University for Biological Studies,
Medical University of South Carolina, University of California San
Diego, and Rady Children's Hospital San Diego to learn more about
dolphin metabolism, dietary C17:0, and how we may improve the health
of dolphins, inform conservation efforts to protect wild dolphin
nutrition sources, and improve the health of children with this same

Best regards,
Stephanie Venn-Watson, DVM, MPH
Director, Translational Medicine and Research Program
National Marine Mammal Foundation
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