Bubbles in live-stranded dolphins
Moore, Michael J.
Moore, Kathleen M. T.
Sharp, Sarah M.
Harry, Charles T.
Hoppe, Jane M.
Niemeyer, Misty E.
Lentell, Betty J.
Wells, Randall S.
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Bubbles in supersaturated tissues and blood occur in beaked whales stranded near sonar exercises, and post-mortem in dolphins bycaught at depth and then hauled to the surface. To evaluate live dolphins for bubbles, liver, kidneys, eyes and blubber–muscle interface of live-stranded and capture-release dolphins were scanned with B-mode ultrasound. Gas was identified in kidneys of 21 of 22 live-stranded dolphins and in the hepatic portal vasculature of 2 of 22. Nine then died or were euthanized and bubble presence corroborated by computer tomography and necropsy, 13 were released of which all but two did not re-strand. Bubbles were not detected in 20 live wild dolphins examined during health assessments in shallow water. Off-gassing of supersaturated blood and tissues was the most probable origin for the gas bubbles. In contrast to marine mammals repeatedly diving in the wild, stranded animals are unable to recompress by diving, and thus may retain bubbles. Since the majority of beached dolphins released did not re-strand it also suggests that minor bubble formation is tolerated and will not lead to clinically significant decompression sickness.
© The Author(s), 2011. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B : Biological Sciences 279 (2012): 1396-1404, doi:10.1098/rspb.2011.1754.
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