NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Researchers say snowmelt that chilled coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico may have contributed to baby dolphin deaths in the winter of 2011.
A new research paper says 86 baby dolphins are known to have been aborted or died shortly after birth during the period.
Researcher Ruth Carmichael of Alabama's Dauphin Island Sea Lab says she can't say definitively that colder water caused the deaths.
However, she says it may have been a deadly contributing factor.
The deaths were among more than 700 recorded since February 2010, nearly two months before the BP oil spill began.
Carmichael says by winter 2011, dolphins very likely had been stressed by spill-related problems when the cold water arrived.
Water temperatures fell in Mobile Bay and Mississippi Sound around the same time there were peaks in infant dolphin strandings.