Brevia

Cumulative Sperm Whale Bone Damage and the Bends

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Science  24 Dec 2004:
Vol. 306, Issue 5705, pp. 2215
DOI: 10.1126/science.1105452

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Abstract

Diving mosasaurs, plesiosaurs, and humans develop dysbaric osteonecrosis from end-artery nitrogen embolism ("the bends") in certain bones. Sixteen sperm whales from calves to large adults showed a size-related development of osteonecrosis in chevron and rib bone articulations, deltoid crests, and nasal bones. Occurrence in animals from the Pacific and Atlantic oceans over 111 years made a pathophysiological diagnosis of dysbarism most likely. Decompression avoidance therefore may constrain diving behavior. This suggests why some deep-diving mammals show periodic shallow-depth activity and why gas emboli are found in animals driven to surface precipitously by acoustic stressors such as mid-frequency sonar systems.

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