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News Article | May 5, 2017
Site: cen.acs.org

Certain molecules in the breath of dolphins exposed to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill correlate with signs of respiratory illness, a new study shows. The findings give researchers a set of biomarkers that could help assess the health of wild dolphins and other marine mammals using relatively noninvasive breath analysis (Environ. Sci. Technol. 2017, DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.6b06482). During veterinary exams on dolphins, marine biologists often take small samples of blood and use ultrasound to check for lung illness or pregnancy. But dolphins, like humans, also exhale metabolites that can tell us about their health, and analyzing them could offer a less invasive monitoring tool, says Cristina E. Davis of the University of California, Davis. She and her colleagues have developed a Breathalyzer-type device that can capture compounds in dolphins’ breath for analysis. Before researchers can make a diagnosis based on breath alone, however, they need more information on how compounds in dolphin breath relate to dolphin health. The blowout of BP’s Macondo well triggered a deadly explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and the largest oil spill in U.S. history. As the oil reached coastal regions along the Gulf of Mexico, including Barataria Bay, La., researchers at the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration and the National Marine Mammal Foundation began monitoring the health of local populations of bottlenose dolphins. A year after the spill, blood and ultrasound tests showed that the oil exposure harmed the dolphins’ lungs, adrenal gland function, and ability to reproduce; these problems have persisted in the years since. Many dolphins contracted bacterial pneumonia, and dolphin death rates spiked. The groups collaborated with Davis to include breath analysis in their monitoring studies. For health exams on wild dolphins, researchers use a boat to encircle the dolphin with a net and bring it on deck temporarily for tests—including the breath analysis, which works best when the animal can be kept relatively still. Taking a breath sample involves holding the device—with a squishy first aid mask at its base connected to a capped glass tube surrounded by ice—over the dolphin’s blowhole for about 10 breaths. Organic compounds freeze onto the glass, and the scientists then use a plunger to scrape them into a vial for later mass spectrometric analysis and compound identification. To compare the dolphins in Barataria Bay with healthy populations, the researchers also examined a wild population in Sarasota Bay, Fla., that was not affected by the oil spill and a population managed and trained through the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program in San Diego. The team found that the two healthy groups of dolphins had fairly similar profiles of breath metabolites, but that dolphins exposed to the spill had quite different patterns. About two dozen compounds in the breath of Barataria Bay dolphins were linked with ultrasound diagnoses of lung consolidation, a possible sign of pneumonia in which lung tissue fills with liquid. Some of these compounds are products of the breakdown of lung cells, including phospholipids such as phosphatidylglycerol. The oil-affected dolphins’ breath also had bacterial metabolites that may be linked with bacterial pneumonia, and leukotriene E3, a marker of asthmatic inflammation. “It’s a fantastic, innovative study,” says Jonathan Beauchamp, an expert in breath analysis at Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering & Packaging and associate editor of the Journal of Breath Research. “It’s quite impressive to have such good separation” of the metabolites in the different populations, he says, and for the researchers to have identified so many of them. He says the method could complement current tools to assess the effects of disasters on marine mammals. Next, Davis and her colleagues want to figure out how to use these findings to track the health of other dolphin populations, and, down the road, other marine mammals such as whales and manatees. The researchers also hope to refine the method to collect breath from wild dolphins when they are still in the water, and eventually to develop a device that could analyze the data in the field. “This opens up the possibility of doing health assessments on species that right now we can’t do, because there’s no way to catch them and handle them,” says study author Lori H. Schwacke of the National Marine Mammal Foundation.


News Article | April 17, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

They are shy and elusive. They are tinier than a dolphin. And they are disappearing fast. Despite heroic efforts, vaquita porpoises are dying at astounding rates in illegal fishing nets in their limited habitat in the northwestern corner of the Gulf of California. Last week, two more vaquitas were found dead. Fewer than 30 vaquitas are believed to be alive today, making them the most endangered marine mammal in the world. But there is reason to hope. An unusual, diverse, international coalition of partners called VaquitaCPR and led by the Mexican government has worked feverishly to develop a bold, first-ever emergency plan to rescue the vaquita and place them in a sanctuary until illegal fishing is ended and their habitat is cleared of deadly gillnets. This week, the Mexican government's Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) announced a pledge of up to $3 million dollars to help launch the first critical phase of this emergency plan, including construction of a sea pen sanctuary. This is a significant financial commitment, but additional support from the public is vital to ensure the full implementation of this daring effort to recover a population that totaled 600 animals just 20 years ago. "The challenge is staggering," says The Marine Mammal Center's Executive Director Dr. Jeff Boehm, who is leading the coalition's fundraising efforts. "How we respond to this emergency reveals who we are as a society. It sets precedent. We are asking the public to step up and donate what they can today at http://www. to match the Mexican government's generous funding. Additional donations are needed for veterinary care, staffing, and equipment and to ensure the program is not cut short because of lack of funds." The critical need for support from the public to help save the vaquita has been reinforced by a number of celebrities, who are asking their fans to help fund the project, according to Dr. Cynthia Smith, Executive Director of the National Marine Mammal Foundation. The Foundation is one of the primary partners supporting VaquitaCPR. Dr. Smith thanks singer, songwriter, and actress Miley Cyrus, and actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Chris Hemsworth, and Carolyn Hennesy. "Public outreach and awareness is so essential to this project," said Dr. Smith. "When people understand the world is about to lose something dear, they will try to make a difference." The caring, compassion, and concern that prompted the development of the emergency plan to save the vaquita from extinction gained additional support today. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) announced its members have committed their support through its Save Animals from Extinction (SAFE) program and pledged to raise additional funds for VaquitaCPR. In recent years, significant contributions have enabled efforts that have focused on assessing the population and educating the public about the devastating threat facing the endangered porpoise. The Mexican government has expended more than $100 million to date on these efforts and more. According to Debborah Luke, AZA's Senior Vice President for Conservation & Science, the AZA community has also contributed to vaquita conservation through its innovative SAFE program in the past five years. The illegal gillnets killing vaquita are used to catch another endangered species, the totoaba. The fish's dried swim bladders fetch huge sums of money in China and Hong Kong, where it is believed the bladders help maintain youthful-looking skin. "We are very grateful that both the Mexican government and AZA have pledged support and hope it will inspire others who share our determination to save the vaquita to donate," emphasized Dr. Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, lead researcher and head of Mexico's International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA). "Does the public care enough to help save the most endangered marine mammal in the world? I think so. We can't stand by and watch this precious resource disappear. It will be challenging, but we must try." To support the rescue effort, learn more about the vaquita and for information about VaquitaCPR, visit VaquitaCPR.org VaquitaCPR is led by Mexico's Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT). 'VaquitaCPR' is dedicated to conserving, protecting, and helping this rare porpoise recover. The National Marine Mammal Foundation, The Marine Mammal Center, and the Chicago Zoological Society are primary partners in this extraordinary conservation effort. Key collaborators in Mexico include the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA), the National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change (INECC), the Mexican Association of Habitats for the Interaction and Protection of Marine Mammals (AMHMAR), and Acuario Oceanico. Additional United States collaborators are Duke University and the Marine Mammal Commission, with NOAA Fisheries providing technical expertise. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Dolphin Quest, SeaWorld, Vancouver Aquarium, the International Marine Animal Trainer's Association and the Association of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums are offering support and expertise to the program and assisting with fundraising.


News Article | March 30, 2016
Site: phys.org

Researchers follow them by drone and by sea, analyzing their waste and their exhaled breath. Now, experts want to add another layer to the exhaustive studies: individual health records for each endangered whale. The records would take existing research on the creatures and combine it in one place. The idea is to use them to monitor the orcas' health trends individually and as a population. It's similar to people having one medical record as they move from one doctor to the next or between specialists. Eighty-four orcas typically appear in Puget Sound from spring to fall. "The goal is to really start getting a lot of data and pull them together in a way that permits easier analysis," said Joe Gaydos, a wildlife veterinarian at the University of California, Davis, and chief scientist with the SeaDoc Society, which is part of the university's School of Veterinary Medicine. "Ultimately, the real benefit of any health record is to help make (management) decisions," he added. For example, if an orca appears emaciated or is in bad shape during certain times of the year, wildlife managers can access the animal's health history to see what's going on and what they could do about it, he said. Understanding the factors that affect an orca's health will ultimately help pinpoint the key threats and how to reduce them, experts say. "It will be really powerful to rule out things that aren't important and focus in on what's really important," said Lynne Barre with NOAA Fisheries. She said that will help inform research and management decisions in the long run. The project aims to pull together data on behavior, reproductive success, skin diseases and other study areas to allow for integrated analysis, she said. Scientists have enough data that they can now connect the dots to get meaningful answers, said Brad Hanson, an NOAA Fisheries wildlife biologist. More than two dozen wildlife experts met in Seattle on Tuesday to develop plans for health records for the orcas. The meeting was sponsored by SeaDoc Society, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries and the National Marine Mammal Foundation. Many details are still being worked out, including who will maintain the data and how people will access it. But an initial database would be launched this summer using readily available information, such as sex, age, gender and other details, Gaydos said. Other information would be added next year. Elsewhere, scientists have studied individual animals to monitor their health, including North Atlantic right whales. Using a database of hundreds of thousands of photographs taken over decades, researchers at the New England Aquarium and others have studied the body and skin conditions of about 400 individual right whales to assess their health. Individual Puget Sound orcas are identified by unique black and white markings or variations in their fin shapes, and each whale is given a number and a name. The Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island keeps the federal government's annual census on the population. The three families—the J, K, and L pods—are genetically and behaviorally distinct from other killer whales. They use unique calls to communicate with one another and eat salmon rather than marine mammals. Their numbers have fluctuated in recent decades as they have faced threats from pollution, lack of prey and disturbance from boats. They were listed as endangered in 2005.


News Article | March 30, 2016
Site: www.biosciencetechnology.com

The killer whales that spend time in the inland waters of Washington state already are tagged and tracked, photographed and measured. Researchers follow them by drone and by sea, analyzing their waste and their exhaled breath. Now, experts want to add another layer to the exhaustive studies: individual health records for each endangered whale. The records would take existing research on the creatures and combine it in one place. The idea is to use them to monitor the orcas' health trends individually and as a population. It's similar to people having one medical record as they move from one doctor to the next or between specialists. Eighty-four orcas typically appear in Puget Sound from spring to fall. "The goal is to really start getting a lot of data and pull them together in a way that permits easier analysis," said Joe Gaydos, a wildlife veterinarian at the University of California, Davis, and chief scientist with the SeaDoc Society, which is part of the university's School of Veterinary Medicine. "Ultimately, the real benefit of any health record is to help make (management) decisions," he added. For example, if an orca appears emaciated or is in bad shape during certain times of the year, wildlife managers can access the animal's health history to see what's going on and what they could do about it, he said. Understanding the factors that affect an orca's health will ultimately help pinpoint the key threats and how to reduce them, experts say. "It will be really powerful to rule out things that aren't important and focus in on what's really important," said Lynne Barre with NOAA Fisheries. She said that will help inform research and management decisions in the long run. The project aims to pull together data on behavior, reproductive success, skin diseases and other study areas to allow for integrated analysis, she said. Scientists have enough data that they can now connect the dots to get meaningful answers, said Brad Hanson, an NOAA Fisheries wildlife biologist. More than two dozen wildlife experts met in Seattle on Tuesday to develop plans for health records for the orcas. The meeting was sponsored by SeaDoc Society, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries and the National Marine Mammal Foundation. Many details are still being worked out, including who will maintain the data and how people will access it. But an initial database would be launched this summer using readily available information, such as sex, age, gender and other details, Gaydos said. Other information would be added next year. Elsewhere, scientists have studied individual animals to monitor their health, including North Atlantic right whales. Using a database of hundreds of thousands of photographs taken over decades, researchers at the New England Aquarium and others have studied the body and skin conditions of about 400 individual right whales to assess their health. Individual Puget Sound orcas are identified by unique black and white markings or variations in their fin shapes, and each whale is given a number and a name. The Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island keeps the federal government's annual census on the population. The three families - the J, K, and L pods - are genetically and behaviorally distinct from other killer whales. They use unique calls to communicate with one another and eat salmon rather than marine mammals. Their numbers have fluctuated in recent decades as they have faced threats from pollution, lack of prey and disturbance from boats. They were listed as endangered in 2005.


News Article | March 30, 2016
Site: www.rdmag.com

The endangered killer whales that spend time in the waters off Washington state are among the most closely studied wildlife, and it is expected to get even more in depth. Researchers already collect and analyze their waste and breath samples taken when they exhale; satellite tags track where they swim in winter; and drone images provide details about body shape, size and condition. Now, wildlife veterinarians and other experts want to take that information and create personal health records for each southern resident killer whale. There are 84 of the animals that typically appear in Puget Sound from spring to fall. The idea is to use the records to monitor the orcas' health trends individually and as a population. It's similar to people having one medical record as they move from one doctor to the next or between specialists. "The goal is to really start getting a lot of data and pull them together in a way that permits easier analysis," said Joe Gaydos, a wildlife veterinarian at the University of California, Davis, and chief scientist with the SeaDoc Society, which is part of the university's School of Veterinary Medicine. "Ultimately, the real benefit of any health record is to help make (management) decisions," he added. For example, if an orca appears emaciated or is in bad shape during certain times of the year, wildlife managers can access the animal's health history to see what's going on and what they could do about it, he said. Understanding the factors that affect an orca's health will ultimately help pinpoint the key threats and how to reduce them, experts say. "It will be really powerful to rule out things that aren't important and focus in on what's really important," said Lynne Barre with NOAA Fisheries. She said that will help inform research and management decisions in the long run. The project aims to pull together data on behavior, reproductive success, skin diseases and other study areas to allow for integrated analysis, she said. Scientists have enough data that they can now connect the dots to get meaningful answers, said Brad Hanson, an NOAA Fisheries wildlife biologist. More than two dozen wildlife experts met in Seattle on Tuesday to develop plans for health records for the orcas. The meeting was sponsored by SeaDoc Society, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries and the National Marine Mammal Foundation. Many details are still being worked out, including who will maintain the data and how people will access it. But an initial database would be launched this summer using readily available information, such as sex, age, gender and other details, Gaydos said. Other information would be added next year. Elsewhere, scientists have studied individual animals to monitor their health, including North Atlantic right whales. Using a database of hundreds of thousands of photographs taken over decades, researchers at the New England Aquarium and others have studied the body and skin conditions of about 400 individual right whales to assess their health. Individual Puget Sound orcas are identified by unique black and white markings or variations in their fin shapes, and each whale is given a number and a name. The Center for Whale Research on San Juan Island keeps the federal government's annual census on the population. The three families — the J, K, and L pods — are genetically and behaviorally distinct from other killer whales. They use unique calls to communicate with one another and eat salmon rather than marine mammals. Their numbers have fluctuated in recent decades as they have faced threats from pollution, lack of prey and disturbance from boats. They were listed as endangered in 2005.


Crocker D.E.,Sonoma State University | Houser D.S.,National Marine Mammal Foundation | Webb P.M.,University of Rhode Island
Physiological and Biochemical Zoology | Year: 2012

In capital breeders, individual differences in body size and condition can impact mating effort and success. In addition to the collateral advantages of large body size in competition, large nutrient reserves may offer advantages in endurance rivalry and enable the high rates of energy expenditure associated with mating success. We examined the impacts of body reserves and dominance rank on energy expenditure, water flux, mating success, and breeding tenure in the adult male northern elephant seal, a polygynous, capital breeder. Adult males expended energy at a rate of 195±49 MJ d -1, which is equivalent to 3.1 times the standard metabolic rate predicted by Kleiber's equation. Despite high rates of energy expenditure and a long fasting duration, males spared lean tissue effectively, deriving a mean of 7% of their metabolism from protein catabolism. Body composition had a strong impact on the ability to spare lean tissue during breeding. When controlling for body size, energy expenditure, depletion of blubber reserves, and water efflux were significantly greater in alpha males than in subordinate males. Large body size was associated with increased reproductive effort, tenure on shore, dominance rank, and reproductive success. Terrestrial locomotion and topography appeared to strongly influence energy expenditure. Comparisons with conspecific females suggest greater total seasonal reproductive effort in male northern elephant seals when controlling for the effects of body mass. In polygynous capital breeding systems, male effort may be strongly influenced by physiological state and exceed that of females. © 2012 by The University of Chicago.


Ridgway S.H.,National Marine Mammal Foundation
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America | Year: 2011

Echolocating dolphins emit trains of clicks and receive echoes from ocean targets. They often emit each successive ranging click about 20 ms after arrival of the target echo. In echolocation, decisions must be made about the target-fish or fowl, predator or food. In the first test of dolphin auditory decision speed, three bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) chose whistle or pulse burst responses to different auditory stimuli randomly presented without warning in rapid succession under computer control. The animals were trained to hold pressure catheters in the nasal cavity so that pressure increases required for sound production could be used to split response time (RT) into neural time and movement time. Mean RT in the youngest and fastest dolphin ranged from 175 to 213 ms when responding to tones and from 213 to 275 ms responding to pulse trains. The fastest neural times and movement times were around 60 ms. The results suggest that echolocating dolphins tune to a rhythm so that succeeding pulses in a train are produced about 20 ms over target round-trip travel time. The dolphin nervous system has evolved for rapid processing of acoustic stimuli to accommodate for the more rapid sound speed in water compared to air. © 2011 Acoustical Society of America.


Venn-Watson S.,National Marine Mammal Foundation | Carlin K.,National Marine Mammal Foundation | Ridgway S.,National Marine Mammal Foundation
General and Comparative Endocrinology | Year: 2011

There is currently no known natural animal model that fully complements type 2 diabetes in humans. Criteria for a true natural animal model include the presence of a fasting hyperglycemia, evidence of insulin resistance, and pathologies matching that reported in humans. To investigate the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) as a comparative model for type 2 diabetes in humans, hourly plasma and urine chemistry changes, including glucose, were analyzed among five healthy, adult dolphins for 24. h following ingestion of 2.5-3.5. kg of mackerel or 2-3. L of 10% dextrose in ionosol. Fasting and 2. h post-prandial insulin levels were also determined among five adult dolphins to assess the presence of hyperinsulinemia. Finally, a case-control study compared insulin and glucagon levels among dolphins with and without iron overload, a condition associated with insulin resistance in humans. Both protein and dextrose meals caused significant increases in plasma glucose during the 0-5. h post-prandial period; dolphins fed dextrose demonstrated a sustained hyperglycemia lasting 5-10. h. Fasting plasma insulin levels among healthy dolphins mimicked those found in humans with some insulin resistance. Dolphins with hemochromatosis had higher post-prandial plasma insulin levels compared to controls. We conclude that bottlenose dolphins can demonstrate metabolic responses consistent with type 2 diabetes, specifically sustained hyperglycemia and hyperinsulinemia. Understanding more about how and why dolphins have a diabetes-like metabolism may provide new research avenues for diabetes in humans. © 2010.


Grant
Agency: Department of Defense | Branch: Navy | Program: STTR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 80.00K | Year: 2014

Innovative Veterinary Medicine, Inc. will conceptualize and design an anesthesia ventilator named DolVent specifically designed to meet the unique physiologic requirements of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions. The significance of the DolVent ventilator will be its ability to properly support normal respiratory function in anesthetized animals using ventilation modes that mimic the natural breathing patterns of these animals and best manage their respiratory mechanics. To best meet these goals, DolVent will minimally include Airway Pressure Release Ventilation (APRV) and Apneustic Anesthesia Ventilation (AAV) modes. The ventilator will be designed with commercially available components and be compatible and operable with commercially available human and large animal veterinary gas anesthesia systems. The species-specific features of the DolVent ventilator will meet a modern set of biomedical criteria to maximize safety, durability and efficacy. In addition, DolVent will be fully deployable and meet compatibility/conditional standards for use in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) facilities. A removable electronic, enhanced user interface (EUI) will be designed to improve and simplify user application of DolVent"s capabilities. A Board Certified Veterinary Anesthesiologist recognized as a global authority on anesthesia of both California sea lions and Atlantic bottlenose dolphins and will oversee concept, design, and prototype development.


Grant
Agency: Department of Defense | Branch: Navy | Program: STTR | Phase: Phase II | Award Amount: 499.67K | Year: 2015

The proposed Phase II project intends to conduct a clinical study to evaluate the safety and efficacy of probiotics from dolphins, and to develop and commercialize a microencapsulated probiotic product to improve gastrointestinal health of dolphins. Preliminary research conducted by the US Navy Marine Mammal program (MMP) and Accacia International has identified some lactobacilli strains with probiotic properties from commensal gut microbiotia of dolphins. In Phase II, a safety evaluation of the candidate probiotics will be carried out by in silico analysis; sequence analysis for pathogenicity islands, genes involved in probiosis etc, followed by in vitro experiments such as antibiotic resistance, and assessment of metabolic products. A detailed in vivo study on the safety and efficacy of the candidate probiotic(s) using bottlenose dolphins is planned in collaboration with MMP during Phase II. Accacia intends to develop a novel commercial product for dolphins, which are being raised in captivity in dolphinaria and marine mammal parks. Accacia?s goal is to develop a microencapsulated probiotic product in combination with prebiotics to improve the indigenous microflora of dolphins, and use it as a natural alternative to antibiotics for treatment of gastrointestinal diseases. This would be the first commercial probiotic product ever developed for dolphins.

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