[MARMAM] Spirometry in dolphins, a conservation tool to help wild cetaceans

Andreas Fahlman afahlman at whoi.edu
Wed Feb 12 13:08:43 PST 2020

Dear All
We are happy to share our new publication looking at lung function/spirometry as a diagnostic tool to assess lung health in bottlenose dolphins. We evaluated lung health in 3 bottlenose dolphins under human care to assess whether pulmonary function testing (or spirometry) provide diagnostic information about respiratory health. In human medicine, respiratory health is evaluated through measurement of respiratory flow from maximal respiratory manoeuvres. In this study, we collected data from trained maximal respiratory efforts in water and from spontaneous breaths while beached. We evaluated how the flow-volume relationship and two indices of respiratory capacity changed for the animals when diagnosed with pulmonary disease, and during treatment and recovery. Our study suggest that pirometry in marine mammals could provide a simple, portable and non-invasive diagnostic tool to help assess respiratory health in dolphins under human care, and improve  conservation efforts while assessing health status in wild stranded animals..

Abstract: Pulmonary function testing was performed in 3 dolphins under managed care (1 female and 2 males) during a 2-year period to assess whether these data provide diagnostic information about respiratory health. Pulmonary radiographs and standard clinical testing were used to evaluate the pulmonary health of each dolphin. The female dolphin had evidence of chronic pulmonary fibrosis (F1), and one male developed pneumonia during the study (M2). Pulmonary function data were collected from maximal respiratory efforts in water and from spontaneous breaths while beached. From these data, the flow-volume relationship, the flow measured between 25% and 75% of the expired vital capacity (FEF25%-75%), and the percent of the vital capacity (VC) at the peak expiratory flow (%VCPEF), were evaluated and compared with the diagnostic assessment. For maximal respiratory manoeuvres in water, there were no differences in FEF25%-75% nor %VCPEF, and the flow-volume relationship showed a consistent pattern for F1. Additionally, FEF25%-75% and %VCPEF decreased by 27% and 52% respectively, and the flow-volume relationship showed clear flow limitations with emerging disease in M2. While spontaneously breathing on land, M2 also showed a 49% decrease in %VCPEF and changes in the flow-volume relationship indicating flow limitations when developed pneumonia. Based on these preliminary results, we suggest that pulmonary function testing should be given more attention as a non-invasive, and possibly adjunctive diagnostic tool, to evaluate lung health in both managed care and wild dolphins.

Reference: Borque Espinosa A., Burgos F., Dennison S., Laughlin R., Manley M., Capaccioni R., Fahlman A. 2020 Lung function testing as a diagnostic tool to assess respiratory health in bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus. Dis Aquat Org 138, 17-27. (doi:https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03447).

This article is open access and can be downloaded at: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03447, or by request to afahlman at whoi.edu <mailto:afahlman at whoi.edu>

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