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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 138:17-27 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03447

Pulmonary function testing as a diagnostic tool to assess respiratory health in bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus

A. Borque-Espinosa1,2,3, F. Burgos4,5, S. Dennison6, R. Laughlin7, M. Manley7, R. Capaccioni Azzati3, A. Fahlman1,2,8,*

1Research Department, Fundación Oceanogràfic de la Comunitat Valenciana, Valencia 46005, Spain
2Research Group on Biomedical Imaging (GIBI230), Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria la Fe, Valencia 46026, Spain
3Marine Biology Laboratory, Universitat de València, Valencia 46100, Spain
4Department of Pulmonary Medicine, Hospital Clínic-Institut d’Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi I Sunyer (IDIBAPS), Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona 08036, Spain
5Center for Biomedical Network Research in Respiratory Diseases (CIBERES), Madrid 28029, Spain
6TeleVet Imaging Solutions, PLLC, Oakton, VA 22124, USA
7Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat, The Mirage, Las Vegas, NV 89109, USA
8Global Diving Research Inc., Ottawa, ON K2J 5E8, Canada
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Pulmonary function testing was performed in 3 bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus (1 female and 2 males) under managed care during a 2 yr period to assess whether these data provide diagnostic information about respiratory health. Pulmonary radiographs and standard clinical testing were used to evaluate the pulmonary health of each dolphin. The female dolphin (F1) had evidence of chronic pulmonary fibrosis, and 1 male (M2) developed pneumonia during the study. Pulmonary function data were collected from maximal respiratory efforts in water and from spontaneous breaths while beached. From these data, the flow-volume relationship, the flow measured between 25 and 75% of the expired vital capacity (mid forced expiratory flow, FEF25%-75%), and the percent of the vital capacity (VC) at the peak expiratory flow (%VCPEF), were evaluated and compared with the diagnostic assessment. For maximal respiratory manoeuvres in water, there were no differences in FEF25%-75% or %VCPEF, and the flow-volume relationship showed a consistent pattern for F1. Additionally, FEF25%-75% and %VCPEF decreased by 27 and 52%, respectively, and the flow-volume relationship showed clear flow limitations with emerging disease in M2. While spontaneously breathing on land, M2 also showed a 49% decrease in %VCPEF and changes in the flow-volume relationship, indicating flow limitations following the development of pneumonia. Based on these preliminary results, we suggest that pulmonary function testing should be given more attention as a non-invasive and possibly adjunctive diagnostic tool to evaluate lung health of dolphins under managed care and in the wild.


KEY WORDS: Lung mechanics · Diving physiology · Marine mammals · Radiography · Diagnostic imaging · Spirometry · Pulmonary disease


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Cite this article as: Borque-Espinosa A, Burgos F, Dennison S, Laughlin R, Manley M, Capaccioni Azzati R, Fahlman A (2020) Pulmonary function testing as a diagnostic tool to assess respiratory health in bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus. Dis Aquat Org 138:17-27. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03447

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