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Physiological and Biochemical Neuroprotection in Cetaceans: Are Some Marine Mammal Species Safeguarded from Emboli Formation and Barotrauma?

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The primary goal of this study is to evaluate the susceptibility of critical tissues in cetaceans to acoustically mediated trauma from emboli formation. By investigating tissue and whole animal mechanisms we intend to identify possible physiologicalenvironmental factors that would allow for lipidgas mobilization and concomitant tissue damage at depth. If successful, the results of this project will enable the development of environmentally sensitive schedules for oceanic acoustic activities by identifying those species most susceptible to tissue injury. To accomplish these goals we are focusing on two key questions 1. Are the neural tissues of marine mammals uniquely hypoxia tolerant due to the presence of neuroglobin andor cytoglobin This is being examined by measuring the concentration and function of oxygen-carrying globin proteins hemoglobin, cytoglobin and neuroglobin in the brain both sensory and cognitive areas of a wide variety of terrestrial, swimming and deep diving mammals including the beaked whales. 2. Is the dive response that safeguards marine mammals from decompression illness compromised by high levels of locomotor activity In this part of the study we are measuring cardiovascular, metabolic, and gas transfer dynamics of trained bottlenose dolphins during sedentary and active periods underwater. Together these studies will enable us to determine if some marine mammal species, such as the family of beaked whales, are more susceptible to non-auditory tissue damage as may occur in conjunction with navy and oil exploration sound operations. We will take into account several recent hypotheses regarding emboli formation as well as observed behavioral responses of marine mammals to low- and mid- frequency sound production.

Subject Categories:

  • Biological Oceanography
  • Physical and Dynamic Oceanography
  • Marine Engineering
  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Naval Surface Warfare
  • Undersea and Antisubmarine Warfare

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