Bone Collection at Mote Earns National Scientific Honor

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Bone Collection at Mote Earns National Scientific Honor

Jul 19, 2011

Media Contact: Hayley Rutger, or 941-374-0081


The dolphin and whale bone collection at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla. has been accredited by a nationwide mammal research society, which called the collection’s scientific value unsurpassed. The accreditation is the highest seal of approval that such collections can receive and marks the quality and scientific value of the collection.

The Ruth DeLynn Cetacean Osteological Collection, which holds 650 bone specimens from 17 species of cetaceans (dolphins and whales), recently earned accreditation by the American Society of Mammalogists (ASM). ASM promotes a greater understanding of the role of mammals in the natural world and publishes a Western Hemisphere directory of mammal specimen collections that meet its standards for upkeep, organization, data records, accessibility and more.

“Curator Ruth DeLynn has accomplished a Herculean task in her collection, preparation and organization of this collection. The meticulous detail afforded to each specimen… is remarkable,” according to the accreditation letter sent by Michael Mares, president of the ASM. “The resource that Ms. DeLynn has created for the scientific community is unsurpassed, and brings immense credit to Mote.”

DeLynn, a Mote adjunct scientist and volunteer known to many as “The Bone Lady,” founded the Osteological Collection and has curated it for 30 years. She carefully cleans each animal specimen, labels individual bones and stores them in a library so they can be used by researchers to answer questions about the life histories of dolphin and whale species.

“Everything is color-coded and every animal has its own case folder,” DeLynn said. “The collection’s greatest strength is the unique data we have for each animal.”

Most of the specimens are bottlenose dolphins, including 68 from the local Sarasota Bay resident population studied since 1970 by the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program — a collaboration between Mote and the Chicago Zoological Society. Through this Program, scientists study the life history, health, habitat use, environmental contaminant concentrations and behavior of Sarasota Bay dolphins.

And, when the animals die, Mote’s Stranding Investigations Program helps to recover the carcasses in order to gain a better understanding of the factors that lead to dolphins’ deaths. Once necropsies (animal autopsies) are performed, the bones are then cleaned and catalogued in the DeLynn Collection and available for still further study.

This “cradle-to-grave” approach to the study of wild dolphins is unique to Mote and makes the DeLynn Collection “one of the most important and significant cetacean collections in the world,” according to the ASM.

To recognize the achievement of the ASM accreditation, DeLynn was honored with special resolutions by Mote’s Board of Trustees and Volunteer Advisory Council during a private reception at Mote earlier this month.

“We are deeply grateful for the time and talent that Ruth has contributed to Mote as a volunteer and equally grateful for her work as a scientist in building this exceptional collection,” said Robert Carter, chairman of Mote’s Board of Trustees. “What Ruth has done reflects an amazing level of dedication — not just to the research of marine mammals but to Mote Marine Laboratory as a whole.”

To support this critical scientific resource, an anonymous donor recently established the “Ruth DeLynn Cetacean Collection at Mote Marine Laboratory Fund” with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. The fund will support the Collection in perpetuity and allow Mote to showcase DeLynn’s work in a new public exhibit in Mote Aquarium that will open later this year. 

“It’s been an exciting journey to build this collection from the ground up,” DeLynn said. “This accreditation has made 30 years of work worth it.”

* To learn more about the Collection at Mote and to request scientific access, visit:

* The American Society of Mammalogists (ASM) was established in 1919 for the purpose of promoting interest in the study of mammals. Learn more at:

About Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium

Founded in 1955, Mote Marine Laboratory is an independent nonprofit (501(c)3) marine research organization based in Sarasota, Fla., with field stations in eastern Sarasota County, Charlotte Harbor and the Florida Keys. Donations to Mote are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law. We are dedicated to advancing the science of the sea through the study of marine and estuarine ecosystems, through our public Mote Aquarium and through an education division that provides unique programs for all ages. Mote has seven centers for scientific research focusing on sharks, sea turtles and marine mammals, coral reefs, the study of toxins in the environment and their effect on human health, aquaculture, coastal ecology and fisheries enhancement. Showcasing this research is Mote Aquarium, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 365 days a year. Learn more at

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