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Tag-based Heart Rate Measurements of Harbor Porpoises During Normal and Noise-exposed Dives to Study Stress Responses

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Technical Report

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Moss Landing Marine Laboratories Moss Landing United States

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Marine mammals face potentially dramatic changes in the environment and continued disturbances of their habitat from shipping, sonar, fisheries, oil exploration and other ocean activities. To predict and quantify how marine mammals will respond to natural and anthropogenic stressors, it is essential to understand their physiological limits, the potential plasticity of their diving physiology, and their physiological responses to stress. Typical mammalian startle or stress response to an acoustic stressor is increased heart rate, cardiac output and ventilation rate, all which are contrary to the typical marine mammal dive response. Information on the acute stress response during diving is essential to predict how potential stressors effect oxygen and nitrogen management and can provide information on level of stress the animals routinely experience. Here we examine dive heart rate, ventilation rate and activity in both captive and wild porpoise to better understand the dive response and how it may be overruled by noise exposure. We are accessing the acute stress response to an acoustic stressor by comparing heart rate, ventilation rate, and activity between control and exposure dives. This study uses data loggers to record diving electrocardiograms, acceleration, orientation, pressure and acoustic data in captive and wild porpoises. Specific objectives are 1 Quantify physiological heart and ventilation rates and behavioral response activity to acoustic stimuli in captive porpoises by examining differences between the control and controlled noise exposure trials and 2 study dive heart rate, activity and ventilation rate of wild porpoises and examine physiological and behavioral responses to noise levels that they may be exposed to during routine behaviors. This study is providing information on the capability to use non-invasive, multi-sensor tags to quantify the impact of potential stressors such as sound on physiological systems in cetaceans in the wild.

Subject Categories:

  • Biological Oceanography
  • Anatomy and Physiology

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