Over the past twenty years there has been a growing interest in stressors such as loud noise from seismic surveys and military sonar exercises that may affect the behavior of whales and dolphins. We theorize that the stress may impact the ability of individual animals to manage their diving behaviors that normally minimize the effects of their routine diving. Recent advances in human diving medicine include the development of an assay for the microparticles that result from damage to cells in the blood and that line blood vessels, following dive stress. Over the past four years we have collaborated with the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program and Dr. Stephen Thom at the University of Maryland to analyze blood samples from dolphins in Sarasota, Cape Cod and Bermuda. We are testing the hypothesis that deep diving animals will have elevated microparticle levels. Preliminary findings from the four bottlenose dolphins sampled and tagged off Bermuda in August 2016 suggest that these deep-diving animals may have elevated microparticle levels.
This article appeared on page 15 of the 2017 SDRP Annual Report, Nicks n Notches.