Dolphin wears special physiological wetsuit

January 31, 2012 | Environment
O'Neill dolphin: surfer boy

Marine mammals dive to various depths continuously throughout their lives. They dive to feed, rest, play, and numerous other activities. However, the physiological changes their bodies incur during these dives is not fully understood.

As part of this study, Long Marine Laboratory scientist are looking at the heart rate of diving marine mammals and how it may change over the course of a dive during different levels of activity.

Could heart rate be a key factor in why it is believed marine mammals do not suffer from pressure related illnesses like human divers? This is one of many questions that may be answered.

In order to measure heart rate accurately, the resident animals have been trained to wear a specially designed wetsuit by O'Neill. This wetsuit carries heart rate monitoring equipment that rests against the body of the animals and is able to measure their heart rate during all stages of their dive.

Long Marine Laboratory is working in collaboration with animal facilities around the world to help gather heart rate information from a wide variety of cetacean species in a range of water temperatures and depths.

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