Gas-bubble lesions in stranded cetaceans

Was sonar responsible for a spate of whale deaths after an Atlantic military exercise?


There are spatial and temporal links between some mass strandings of cetaceans — predominantly beaked whales — and the deployment of military sonar1,2,3. Here we present evidence of acute and chronic tissue damage in stranded cetaceans that results from the formation in vivo of gas bubbles, challenging the view that these mammals do not suffer decompression sickness. The incidence of such cases during a naval sonar exercise indicates that acoustic factors could be important in the aetiology of bubble-related disease and may call for further environmental regulation of such activity.

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Figure 1: Gas-filled cavities in the liver of a stranded common dolphin (Delphinus delphis).


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Correspondence to A. Fernández.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Jepson, P., Arbelo, M., Deaville, R. et al. Gas-bubble lesions in stranded cetaceans. Nature 425, 575–576 (2003).

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