Date of Award

Fall 12-2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory

Committee Chair

Dr. Darrell J. Grimes

Committee Chair Department

Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory

Committee Member 2

Dr. Jeffrey M. Lotz

Committee Member 2 Department

Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory

Committee Member 3

Dr. Robert J. Griffitt

Committee Member 3 Department

Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory

Committee Member 4

Dr. R.D. Ellender

Committee Member 4 Department

Biological Sciences

Abstract

As apex predators that display high site fidelity Tursiops truncatus (bottlenose dolphin) are indicators of marine ecosystem health. Bottlenose dolphins, additionally, display pathogenesis and immune response similar to that of humans. Humans and coastal bottlenose dolphins, in particular, are constantly exposed to the same industrial, agricultural and domestic toxins and pathogens, contaminants and pollutants. Thus, studies on the bottlenose dolphin are also valuable in bridging the gap between ocean and human health. Bottlenose dolphins are susceptible to viral bacterial and toxin infection. Infection in the bottlenose dolphin manifests itself in the form of mass stranding events, unusual mortality events, chronic infection, clinically expressed disease, and unapparent/sustained infections. The focus of this dissertation project is the role and characterization of microorganisms impact on bottlenose dolphin stranding events. In accordance with the three main contributors of bottlenose dolphin stranding events this dissertation employed molecular techniques and next generation sequencing technology for viral, bacterial and harmful algal bloom toxin assessment on dolphins and model organisms. The viromics portion of this dissertation, for instance, took a random hexamer approach towards purified viral RNA and DNA, contributing 86 viruses from BND serum not previously reported in the BND. The bacteriomics portion of this project, additionally, took a 16sPCR approach towards purified bacterial nucleic acid associated with BND skin, demonstrating differences in bacterial diversity and abundance in coastal and offshore BND ecotypes. The effects of harmful algal bloom domoic acid exposure to zebrafish, finally, took a 16sPCR and qPCR approach to illustrate shifts in zebrafish gut microbiome and changes in transcriptional regulation, respectively.