The number of dolphins found dead since July 9 is now 54 as five cetaceans washed up Saturday on New Jersey beaches.

The dolphins appear to be dying from a viral pneumonia, although the cause is still unknown, Robert Schoelkopf, director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, said.

Saturday, severely decomposed dolphins washed up in Barnegat Light, Ship Bottom, Long Beach Township and Mantoloking in Ocean County, and in the Strathmere section of Upper Township, Cape May County.

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Schoelkopf said pathologists at the University of Pennsylvania are working to figure out the cause of the mass dolphin deaths, but their work is complicated by the state of decomposition.

“Virtually nothing is left to sample except the teeth or skin to do genetics on,” he said.

The deaths have been declared an “unusual mortality event” by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration since more than 125 dolphins have been found between New York and Virginia.

Contact Wallace McKelvey:

609-272-7256

WMcKelvey@pressofac.com

@wjmckelvey  on Twitter

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