Marine animals get the bends too

Do whales, dolphins and seals get bubbles in their blood?

Author: Pat
3rd February 2012
 

Whales and dolphins could suffer from the bends in just the same way as humans.

That’s the conclusion of scientists at St Andrews University in Scotland, which has been studying cetaceans.

Unsurprisingly, no one has yet figured out a way of studying absorbed gases on a live animal diving to great depths.

However, the team took samples from beached animals and those pulled up accidentally in fishing nets.

Beaked whales were found to have bubbles in major organs, in the kidney and liver of dolphins, and in the tissues of seals and dolphins.

As a side note, researchers believe how deep these animals dive, and for how long, appears to vary with exposure to sonar noise. Military sonar systems, such as those belonging to submarines, could well be ‘deafening’ to marine mammals sensitive to them.

The two could be linked, in that animals fleeing a sonar echo might venture beyond natural limits and make themselves vulnerable to decompression sickness.

 
 
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