[MARMAM] New publication: Review: Marine Mammals and DCS

Sascha Hooker sh43 at st-andrews.ac.uk
Thu Dec 22 02:06:12 PST 2011

The following open access article has just been published:

Deadly diving? Physiological and behavioural management of decompression stress in diving mammals.

SK Hooker, A. Fahlman, MJ Moore, N. Aguilar de Soto, Y Bernaldo de Quiros, AO Brubakk, DP Costa, AM Costidis, S. Dennison, KJ Falke, A Fernandez, M Ferrigno, JR Fitz-Clarke, MM Garner, DS Houser, PD Jepson, DR Ketten, PH Kvadsheim, PT Madsen, NW Pollock, DS Rotstein, TK Rowles, SE Simmons, W Van Bonn, PK Weathersby, MJ Weise, TM Williams, PL Tyack.

Proceedings of the Royal Society, London – Biological Sciences

doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.2088

Available online via:

With data supplement at: http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2011/12/15/rspb.2011.2088/suppl/DC1

Decompression sickness (DCS, 'the bends') is a disease associated with gas uptake at pressure. The basic pathology and cause are relatively well known to human divers. Breath-hold diving marine mammals were thought to be relatively immune to DCS owing to multiple anatomical, physiological and behavioural adaptations that reduce nitrogen gas (N2) loading during dives.  However, recent observations have shown that gas bubbles may form and tissue injury may occur in marine mammals under certain circumstances. Gas kinetic models based on measured time-depth profiles further suggest the potential occurrence of high blood and tissue N2 tensions. We review evidence for gas-bubble incidence in marine mammal tissues and discuss the theory behind gas loading and bubble formation. We suggest that diving mammals vary their physiological responses according to multiple stressors, and that the perspective on marine mammal diving physiology should change from simply 'minimising N2 loading' to 'management of the N2 load'. This suggests several avenues for further study, ranging from the effects of gas bubbles at molecular, cellular and organ function levels, to comparative studies relating the presence/absence of gas bubbles to diving behaviour. Technological advances in imaging and remote instrumentation are likely to advance this field in coming years.

Keywords: diving physiology, marine mammals, gas bubbles, embolism, decompression sickness.

Dr Sascha K. Hooker

Lecturer, School of Biology
Sea Mammal Research Unit, Scottish Oceans Institute, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, FIFE, KY16 8LB, UK
Website: www.smru.st-and.ac.uk/skh/
Email: s.hooker at st-andrews.ac.uk

The University of St Andrews is a charity registered in Scotland: No SC013532
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