Marine mammals could suffer bends, say scientists

Whales and seals could be prone to the same decompression sickness as human divers, according to a new study.

The work by scientists at St Andrews University found evidence of bubble formation in the bodies of cetaceans.

The researchers said this indicated that the marine mammals could be prone to the condition known as „the bends“.

They have also suggested the animals diving behaviour could be affected by excessive human noise, such as exposure to military sonar.

The researchers concluded that marine mammals are not all free from the dangers associated with deep dives and rapid ascents.

They suggested that environmental changes could push some species beyond the limits of their coping mechanisms.

Dr Hooker added: „One concern is that these naturally evolving mechanisms may be stretched by human pressures.

„An apparent threat to these animals, such as sudden high-levels of noise, could cause them to react; altering their dive trajectory or eliciting a fight-or-flight response – that causes them to exceed their normal coping mechanisms for the prevention of the bends.

„While the bends is rare under normal circumstances, excessive human noise or disturbance may cause a marine mammal to change its diving behaviour in ways that result in serious illness or injury.“

Source and more:

Study „Deadly diving? Physiological and behavioural management of decompression stress in diving mammals