Dolphin blubber/axial muscle shear : implications for rigid transdermal intramuscular tracking tag trauma in whales
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Whale tracking tags often penetrate semi-rigid blubber, with intramuscular sharp tips and toggling barbs under the subdermal sheath to reduce premature shedding. Tag sites can show persistent regional swellings or depressions. Fibroelastic blubber grips a tag, so if muscle shears relative to blubber during locomotion, the tag tip could cavitate the muscle within overall shearing distance. We modeled shearing of blubber relative to muscle, within the dorsal-ventral peduncular movement range of four common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) cadavers (mean length 186 cm). The net change in angle and hence tip distance moved was calculated with dorsal and ventral flexion, and compared between 1.5 mm diameter needles inserted into blubber only and through blubber into muscle. The greatest shearing value was 3.6 cm, and shearing was most pronounced in the areas ventral and caudal to the dorsal fin. Scaled dummy tags were also inserted and the animal cyclically flexed dorsally and ventrally for 18 h. Tag sites were dissected and cavities around the tag tips documented. If this shearing is comparable in large whales, depressions and regional swellings observed with intramuscular tracking tags are likely the result of tissue loss and repair, respectively. Placing tags para-sagittally anterior to the dorsal fin would cause the least trauma, but pain from such tags remains a concern.
Author Posting. © The Company of Biologists, 2017. This article is posted here by permission of Company of Biologists for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Journal of Experimental Biology 220 (2017): 3717-3723, doi:10.1242/jeb.165282.
Suggested CitationJournal of Experimental Biology 220 (2017): 3717-3723
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