HomeScienceThe Navy’s Dolphins Have a Few Things to Tell Us About Aging

The Navy’s Dolphins Have a Few Things to Tell Us About Aging

After finishing Blue’s examination, Dr. Linnehan and her colleagues trudged again up the hill to their places of work, the chatter of dolphins and sea lions fading behind them. However even indoors, it was unattainable to flee the animals’ presence: There have been photographs of dolphins, dolphin cartoons and a plushy toy sea lion. Anatomical fashions of dolphins sat on quite a few desks.

The laboratory, situated only a quick stroll away, is usually bustling after the animals’ morning medical checks, as technicians course of any lately collected blood, urine, fecal or different samples. Later, the samples are saved in a small, windowless room throughout the road, the place supercold freezers comprise a marine-mammal biobank that dates again many years. “We’ve acquired animals right here of their 50s,” Dr. Xitco mentioned. “All their well being information are upstairs, and their tissue samples are throughout the road. It’s simply an incredible useful resource.”

This biobank has made it doable for scientists to do longitudinal research, charting, for example, how dolphins’ blood chemistry adjustments as they age. And the big, well-trained animal inhabitants allowed the Navy to pioneer new medical strategies, equivalent to transportable ultrasounds for dolphins. Dr. Sam Ridgway, who was this system’s first veterinarian and continued to publish new analysis till his dying final 12 months, turned generally known as the daddy of marine mammal drugs. To this point, analysis on the Navy’s animals has yielded greater than 1,200 scientific papers, convention displays and ebook chapters, Navy officers mentioned.

“No query they’ve been a frontrunner by way of growing our understanding of dolphin drugs,” mentioned Randy Wells, who directs the Chicago Zoological Society’s Sarasota Dolphin Analysis Program. (Dr. Wells continuously collaborates with this system’s researchers and has additionally obtained funding from the Navy.)

After their morning exams, the animals have coaching or enrichment classes, typically within the open ocean, the place their athleticism is on clear show. The dolphins swim alongside boats, retrieve brightly coloured balls, launch themselves into the air, slip beneath the water’s floor and reappear in a flash.

However they do sluggish with age, Dr. Jensen mentioned. Their power ranges flag, their joints stiffen and so they placed on some further kilos. Some develop coronary heart illness, kidney stones or imaginative and prescient issues, which might require surgical intervention.

A number of hours after inspecting Blue, Dr. Linnehan joined her colleagues on the Marine Mammal Surgical Heart to speak by some upcoming cataract surgical procedures for sea lions. The group has turn out to be extra proactive, mentioned Dr. Jenny Meegan, a senior veterinarian on the Nationwide Marine Mammal Basis. The veterinarians now carry out cataract surgical procedure earlier than the animals’ imaginative and prescient deteriorates considerably, she mentioned, and are learning new diets that they hope will stop dolphins from growing kidney stones.

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