Analysis of lung anatomy reveals potential mechanism that may stop marine mammals getting decompression sickness. Scientists have found clues in the lungs of marine mammals that hint at why the creatures are able to traverse the depths of the ocean without getting the bends. Their new study also suggests a potential mechanism underpinning some of the whale-stranding events that have been linked with navy sonar exercises. Also known as decompression sickness, the bends is a condition that arises when divers ascend too quickly from the depths of the ocean. Dissolved nitrogen gas then enters the skin, joints and brain, and the results can be fatal. Now, researchers have analysed the anatomy of marine mammals in an effort to understand how they avoid the bends, and have come up with a potential explanation. Historically, researchers assumed the chest structure of marine mammals meant their lungs compressed automatically at great depths, an adaptation that prevented them from taking up excess nitrogen and getting the bends.
The basic pathology and cause are relatively well known to human divers. Breath-hold diving marine mammals were thought to be relatively immune to DCS owing to multiple anatomical, physiological and behavioural adaptations that reduce nitrogen gas N 2 loading during dives.
HOW DO DEEP-DIVING SEA CREATURES WITHSTAND HUGE PRESSURE CHANGES? - SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN
SPERM WHALE NITROGEN NARCOSIS
DEADLY DIVING? PHYSIOLOGICAL AND BEHAVIOURAL MANAGEMENT OF DECOMPRESSION STRESS IN DIVING MAMMALS
ONE OF THESE IS DECOMPRESSION SICKNESS (DCS), ALSO KNOWN AS "THE BENDS". SPERM WHALES DIVE DOWN TO M TO FEED...
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