DolphinSwim, little guy! Swim away as fast as you can!Photo: Mark LeeWell HERE’S some cheerful news for your Friday afternoon: Dozens of dead baby dolphins have been washing ashore in the Gulf of Mexico, along Mississippi and Alabama coastlines. Crap.

The timing seems pretty suspicious — the BP oil spill happened around the time these baby dolphins would have been starting to gestate. But NOAA’s cautioning people not to leap exuberantly through a hoop to conclusions. Cold water can also kill dolphins, and the water has been cold lately — in fact, NOAA was already starting to look into weather-related dolphin mortality in the Gulf last year, right before the oil spill hit.

Of specific concern to local researchers is these stillborn or infant dolphins are dying before the birthing season for bottlenose dolphins gets into full swing in March.

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Also, in the first two months of 2009 there was only one calf death reported and in the first two months of 2010 only two.

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In the first two months of this year, there have been 24 reported to the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport. The institute has collected tissue samples and conducted necropsies.

The BP oil spill’s timing coincided with early gestation months for dolphins in the northern Gulf.

But scientists caution about jumping to conclusions because a number of factors can cause dolphin deaths.

There have been 13 Unusual Mortality Events in the Gulf since 1990, said Blair Mase, NOAA’s stranding coordinator for this region.

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While NOAA’s trying to figure out whether we can blame BP or just the cruelty of nature for this one, hopefully this will help salvage your afternoon: