Bad Bubbles: Could sonar give whales the bends?

10:18am, October 8, 2003

Odd bubbles of fat and gas have turned up in the bodies of marine mammals, raising the question of whether something about human activity in the oceans could give such magnificent divers decompression sickness.

Divers of the human sort who shoot upward too fast develop dangerous bubbles of nitrogen in their tissues. But physiologists have long marveled at adaptations in marine mammals that prevent a cetacean version of the bends. "It's never been described before," says Tony Patterson of the Scottish Agricultural College's Veterinary Sciences Division in Inverness.

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