In a study published in the December 24, 2004 issue of the journal Science, Michael Moore and Greg Early at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have documented bone lesions in the rib and chevron bones of sperm whales, most likely caused by tissue damage from nitrogen bubbles that form when the animals rise to the surface.
The WHOI biologists found that the lesions grow in severity with age, and are found in animals from the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. The lesions were found in animals that died up to 111 years ago, and there appears to be no increase in the lesion prevalence since the oceans were industrialized.
Moore and Early studied sixteen partial or complete sperm whale skeletons from the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans that had been archived in museums. They found a series of changes in bones attached to the backbone, namely rib bones, and other small bones in the sperm whales tail region. The changes are patches of bone death as a result of obstructed blood supply to the joint surfaces of the bone.
Shelley Dawicki | EurekAlert!
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