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Would you be more likely to save a dolphin if you could become one?

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University and the National Aquarium in Baltimore hope so. They’ve created a new online game, I Am Dolphin, that lets players get inside the mind of a dolphin and help it swim, leap, forage for prey, and fend off predators. Players using a smartphone or pad can direct cybernetic cetaceans through the sea and watch as the animals respond to commands issued with the flick of a finger.

The technology behind the game was initially developed to help stroke patients regain critical motor function by providing a stimulating, fully immersive rehabilitation environment. Currently in clinical trials, the therapy lets patients put an arm in a robotic sling to maneuver a realistic but simulated dolphin on a screen.

Researchers and trainers at the National Aquarium worked with the Johns Hopkins team to develop the technology, which took about five years to complete. The game app was launched two weeks ago and is available for download in the iTunes store. “We are not animating; we are simulating something with bones, muscles, and many complicated things,” Ahmad said. “When you play, it’s like you’re playing with a real creature in your machine, reacting to forces and acting on its own, almost. You see the subtle play-out of all the physical forces involved.” The game allows players to look at dolphins in a completely different way by spending time inside their motor systems, Ahmad said.

Eventually, the technology could be installed at museums and even in marine parks. The developers hope it might one day replace the display of captive dolphins altogether. The National Aquarium recently announced it is considering retiring its dolphins to sea pens. “I hope it does replace dolphin shows,” Ahmad said. “It was bittersweet to study these dolphins at the aquarium, because it’s heartbreaking to realize how confined they are. Putting them in these small bathtubs, basically, I just think it’s something we need to stop.” by loveearthanimals http://ift.tt/1DKbwTc

Effects of Cold-stunning on Sea Turtles: The poster describes the physiological changes that lead to cold-stunning in sea turtles. This series of beautiful anatomical illustrations were all based on medical images, but were drawn and assembled using computer design software. The poster also shows how to identify a cold-stunned turtle and provides the number of a turtle stranding hotline.

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When I was at Marine World in the ’80s, there was a dolphin there named Shiloh who was in her mid-20s. [One day after she’d done a show she was] returned to her tank, where she lived with three other dolphins. She looked fine, and after feeding and caring for her, the staff left.

But when they returned later that day, they found her on the bottom of her tank, dead—probably from cardiopulmonary failure. People said that it was probably because she was old. I thought, “That doesn’t seem right. She had to work until she died? Why wasn’t she moved to a sanctuary to live out her life?”

Well, there weren’t any dolphin sanctuaries. There still aren’t, although there are [sanctuaries] for dang near every other megafauna species that’s in a zoo. If this one succeeds, it will be the first.

—  National Aquarium CEO on the topic of builing an ocean sanctuary for their current 8 captive dolphins. X