In the past month, 26 dead baby dolphins have washed ashore along the U.S. Gulf Coast. This is calving season for the dolphins, but in most years, only a couple of calf carcasses are found on shore. The incidence of dead newborns and stillborns found this season is "an anomaly," according to Moby Solangi, director of the Institute of Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Miss.

Solangi and other marine scientists suspect a connection between the calf deaths and the three-month-long Deepwater Horizon oil spill that dumped 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico beginning in April 2010. Oil slicks on the ocean surface could have caused serious health problems for dolphins, Solangi told Reuters.

"We take short breaths. These animals take a huge breath at one time and hold it. And when they take it, the fumes stay in the lungs for a long period of time and they cause two types of damage, one of which is immediate to the tissue itself. Second, the hydrocarbons enter the bloodstream," he said.

The oil spill has been implicated in the near-tripling of documented adult dolphin deaths last year, from 30 in a normal year to 89.

Dolphin gestation lasts for 11 or 12 months, so calves born now would have been conceived about two months before the oil spill began. Solangi and others are looking for toxic chemicals in the tissue of the dead dolphin calves to determine if they too were affected by the oil spill while in the womb.

Got a question? Send us an emailThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and we'll crack itThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Follow Natalie Wolchover on Twitter @nattyover