Exfoliants Of The Sea.

Want to have baby-smooth skin?

Dolphin-smooth may be even better.

In the Red Sea off the Egyptian coast, bottlenose dolphins barrel through a soft, bushy coral. Looks fun, but maybe it's medicine.

Dolphins may rub on specific corals and sponges to treat their skin, researchers reported in a new paper. These stationary sea creatures may serve as a drive-by pharmacies, dispensing a chemical cocktail that could treat bacterial or fungal infections or support skin health.

Angela Ziltener, a biologist, spotted this behaviour in 2009. Dolphins lined up in front of a coral, and each one took its turn, sometimes circling to the back of the line for another go.

'' It was very organized, actually, '' said Dr. Ziltener, who works in the Dolphin Watch Alliance in Switzerland.

The Dolphins seemed to have clear preferences - out of hundreds of coral species, they used a select few. Sometimes after the dolphins hit up a coral, their skin was stained yellow or green.

During the summer of 2019, the researchers snipped tiny pieces from two soft coral and one sponge species they had seen dolphins rubbing against in the Red Sea. 

Combining several powerful techniques, the team sleuthed for a range of substances.

Gertrud Morlock, an analytical chemist at Justus Liebig University Giessen in Germany, said they found a ''potpourri'' of 17 bioactive compounds, including antimicrobials, antioxidants and hormones.

Some of these molecules may serve as immune boosters or sunscreens, said Julia Kubanek, a Georgia Institute of Technology marine chemist, who wasn't part of the work. [ Carolyn Wilke ]


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