William A McLellan

University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Wilmington, North Carolina, United States

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Publications (91)184.91 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Growth in common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) was investigated through examination of sex-specific, ontogenetic changes in the mass of 38 discrete body compartments, utilizing stranded dolphins in good body condition (n = 145). Ontogenetic allometry and the body composition technique were used to quantitatively describe growth patterns. Although adult males were significantly larger than adult females in total body mass (TBM) and total length, overall patterns of growth were remarkably similar between sexes. The integument, locomotor muscle, and vertebral column together represented 50%–58% of TBM across all life history categories, although their relative contributions varied ontogenetically. Young dolphins invested the greatest percentage of TBM in integument, while locomotor muscle was the single largest body component in adults. In both sexes (1) most muscle groups displayed positive allometry, (2) most skeletal elements displayed negative allometric or isometric growth, (3) most abdominal viscera associated with digestion displayed positive allometry, and (4) the brain displayed negative allometric growth. Reproductive tissues exhibited the highest rates of growth in both sexes, and increased as a percentage of TBM with maturity. This study provides an integrated view of bottlenose dolphin growth and a quantitative baseline of body composition for future monitoring of this sentinel species of ecosystem health.
    Marine Mammal Science 07/2015; DOI:10.1111/mms.12253 · 1.82 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Several species of odontocete cetaceans depredate bait and catch and, as a result, become hooked and entangled in pelagic longline fisheries. The present study measured how selected commercial longline hooks, including “weak hooks”, behaved within odontocete mouths. Five hooks (Mustad-16/0, Mustad-18/0, Mustad J-9/0, Korean 16, and Korean 18) were tested on three species of odontocetes known to interact with longline fisheries—short-finned pilot whales ( Globicephala macrorhynchus ), Risso's dolphins ( Grampus griseus ), and false killer whales ( Pseudorca crassidens ). Specimens were secured to a stanchion, hooks were placed in the mouth at multiple positions along the dorsal lip, and the force required to pull each hook free was measured. The soft tissue lips of these odontocetes were capable of resisting forces up to 250 kg before failing. The polished steel M-16, M-18, and J-9 hooks straightened at forces between 50 and 225 kg, depending on hook gauge. When straightened, these hooks exposed the sharpened barb, which sliced through the lip tissue, usually releasing the hook intact. The K-16 and K-18 hooks behaved very differently, breaking at higher forces (110–250 kg) and consistently just at the barb; usually, there was measurable soft-tissue loss and often shards of the hook were retained within those soft tissues. The different behaviours of these two hook types—the M and J type polished steel vs . the K type carbon steel—were consistent across all species tested. Mechanical tests were also conducted to determine if hooks could fracture the mandible of these same odontocetes. Only the M-18 and K-18 hooks had sufficiently large gapes to hook around the mandible, and both hook types fractured bone in short-finned pilot whales and Risso's dolphins. These results support other lines of evidence indicating that longline hooks can cause serious injury to these species, and suggest possible steps to mitigate these impacts.
    ICES Journal of Marine Science 06/2015; 72(5). DOI:10.1093/icesjms/fsu181 · 2.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cetaceans span a large range of body sizes and include species with the largest known locomotor muscles. To date, force output and thrust production have only been directly measured in the common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), although thrust forces have been hydrodynamically modeled for some whales. In this study, two metrics of epaxial muscle size—cross-sectional area (CSA) and mass—were used to estimate force output for 22 species (n = 83 specimens) ranging in size from bottlenose dolphins to blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus). Relative to total body length (TL), maximum force output estimated based upon both muscle CSA (TL1.56 ± 0.05) and mass (TL2.64 ± 0.07) scaled at rates lower than those predicted by geometric scaling, suggesting relative force output decreases with increasing body size in cetaceans. Estimated maximal force outputs were compared to both published drag forces and to the breaking strengths of commercial fishing lines known to entangle whales. The breaking strengths of these lines are within the same order of magnitude, and in some cases, exceed the estimated maximal force output of whales. These results suggest that while powerful animals, large whales may be unable to break the extremely strong fishing line used today.
    Marine Mammal Science 05/2015; DOI:10.1111/mms.12230 · 1.82 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Odontocete echolocation clicks are generated by pneumatically-driven phonic lips within the nasal passage, and propagated through specialized structures within the forehead. This study investigated the highly derived echolocation structures of the pygmy (Kogia breviceps) and dwarf (K. sima) sperm whales through careful dissections (N=18 K. breviceps, 6 K. sima) and histological examinations (N=5 K. breviceps). This study is the first to show that the entire kogiid sound production and transmission pathway is acted upon by complex facial muscles (likely derivations of the m. maxillonasolabialis). Muscles appear capable of tensing and separating the solitary pair of phonic lips, which would control echolocation click frequencies. The phonic lips are enveloped by the "vocal cap," a morphologically complex, connective tissue structure unique to kogiids. Extensive facial muscles appear to control the position of this structure and its spatial relationship to the phonic lips. The vocal cap's numerous air crypts suggest that it may reflect sounds. Muscles encircling the connective tissue case that surrounds the spermaceti organ may change its shape and/or internal pressure. These actions may influence the acoustic energy transmitted from the phonic lips, through this lipid body, to the melon. Facial and rostral muscles act upon the length of the melon, suggesting that the sound "beam" can be focused as it travels through the melon and into the environment. This study suggests that the kogiid echolocation system is highly tunable. Future acoustic studies are required to test these hypotheses and gain further insight into the kogiid echolocation system. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    The Anatomical Record Advances in Integrative Anatomy and Evolutionary Biology 04/2015; DOI:10.1002/ar.23168 · 1.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: 1. Under US policy, a stock is a group of animals shown to be demographically independent from other such groups. Evidence of demographic delineations for marine mammal stocks is gained primarily through genetic analysis. However, additional techniques play an important role in determining fine-scale ranging patterns that can be used to define a stock's geographic boundaries. In cases where genetic studies have not yet been performed, movement and ranging pattern data are essential in identifying a targeted geographic region for tissue sampling and genetic studies. 2. Photo-identification surveys, vessel-based radio telemetry, automated radio telemetry systems (ARTS), and satellite-linked telemetry are sampling techniques that have been used to determine common bottlenose dolphin ranging patterns and provide detailed insight into stock boundaries. The results of near simultaneous use of these sampling techniques are compared using data from a case study of bottlenose dolphins within the estuaries of southern Georgia. 3. Satellite-linked and radio telemetry were determined to be useful sampling techniques for identification of short-term ranging patterns. Satellite-linked telemetry had the second lowest cost per location ($122) and identified dolphin ranging patterns within and outside of the study area boundaries. Vessel-based radio telemetry was more costly ($195 per location) and had relatively limited tracking coverage. However, this sampling technique permitted visual observations of animal and tag condition. The combination of vessel-based radio telemetry and ARTS, which had the lowest cost per location ($34), was an effective method for determining ranging patterns of tagged individuals within and outside of the study area. 4. Photo-identification surveys, relative to satellite-linked and radio telemetry, were not as efficient for determination of targeted individuals' short-term ranging patterns and had the highest cost per location of the four sampling techniques ($292). However, photo-identification is more effective than any other technique for compiling data on large numbers of individuals within a designated study area. Photo-identification surveys are essential for long-term monitoring and provide additional insight into dolphin stock structure that cannot be determined through telemetry alone.
    Aquatic Conservation Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 08/2014; 24(4). DOI:10.1002/aqc.2357 · 1.76 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A complementary approach of stomach content and stable isotope analyses was used to characterize the foraging ecology and evaluate niche overlap between pygmy (Kogia breviceps) and dwarf (K. sima) sperm whales stranded on the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast between 1998 and 2011. Food habits analysis demonstrated both species were primarily teuthophagous, with 35 species of cephalopods, and 2 species of mesopelagic fishes represented in their overall diets. Pianka's Index of niche overlap suggested high overlap between whale diets (On = 0.92), with squids from the families Histioteuthidae, Cranchidae, and Ommastrephidae serving as primary prey. Pygmy sperm whales consumed slightly larger prey sizes (mean mantle length [ML] = 10.8 cm) than dwarf sperm whales (mean ML = 7.8 cm). Mean prey sizes consumed by pygmy sperm whales increased with growth, but showed no trend in dwarf sperm whales. Significant differences were not detected in δ15N and δ13C values of muscle tissues from pygmy (10.8‰ ± 0.5‰, −17.1‰ ± 0.6‰), and dwarf sperm whales (10.7‰ ± 0.5‰, −17.0‰ ± 0.4‰), respectively. Isotopic niche widths also did not differ significantly and dietary overlap was high between the two species. Results suggest the feeding ecologies of the pygmy and dwarf sperm whales are similar and both species occupy equivalent trophic niches in the region.
    Marine Mammal Science 04/2014; 30(2). DOI:10.1111/mms.12064 · 1.82 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The adjacency of 2 marine biogeographic regions off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina (NC), and the proximity of the Gulf Stream result in a high biodiversity of species from northern and southern provinces and from coastal and pelagic habitats. We examined spatiotemporal patterns of marine mammal strandings and evidence of human interaction for these strandings along NC shorelines and evaluated whether the spatiotemporal patterns and species diversity of the stranded animals reflected published records of populations in NC waters. During the period of 1997-2008, 1847 stranded animals were documented from 1777 reported events. These animals represented 9 families and 34 species that ranged from tropical delphinids to pagophilic seals. This biodiversity is higher than levels observed in other regions. Most strandings were of coastal bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) (56%), harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) (14%), and harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) (4%). Overall, strandings of northern species peaked in spring. Bottlenose dolphin strandings peaked in spring and fall. Almost half of the strandings, including southern delphinids, occurred north of Cape Hatteras, on only 30% of NC's coastline. Most stranded animals that were positive for human interaction showed evidence of having been entangled in fishing gear, particularly bottlenose dolphins, harbor porpoises, short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus), harbor seals, and humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae). Spatiotemporal patterns of bottlenose dolphin strandings were similar to ocean gillnet fishing effort. Biodiversity of the animals stranded on the beaches reflected biodiversity in the waters off NC, albeit not always proportional to the relative abundance of species (e.g., Kogia species). Changes in the spatiotemporal patterns of strandings can serve as indicators of underlying changes due to anthropogenic or naturally occurring events in the source populations.
    Fishery Bulletin- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 01/2014; 112:1-23. DOI:10.7755/FB.112.1.1 · 1.78 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In this paper the occurrence, distribution and abundance of cetaceans in offshore waters of Onslow Bay, North Carolina, USA is described. Between June 2007 and June 2010 monthly aerial and shipboard line-transect surveys were conducted along ten 74km transects placed perpendicular to the shelf break. In total 42,676km of aerial trackline (218 sightings) and 5,209km of vessel trackline (100 sightings) were observed. Seven species of cetaceans were observed, but the fauna was dominated strongly by common bottlenose and Atlantic spotted dolphins. Both species were present year-round in the study area. Using photo-identification techniques, five bottlenose dolphins and one spotted dolphin were resighted during the three-year period. In general, the abundance of cetaceans in Onslow Bay was low and too few sightings were made to estimate monthly abundances for species other than bottlenose and spotted dolphins. Maximum monthly abundances of bottlenose and spotted dolphins were 4,100 (95% CI: 1,300–9,400) in May 2010 and 6,000 (95% CI: 2,500–17,400) in March 2009, respectively. Bottlenose dolphins were found throughout the study area, although they were encountered most frequently just off the shelf break. In contrast, spotted dolphins exhibited a strong preference for waters over the continental shelf and were not encountered beyond the shelf break.
    Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 01/2014; 14:23-35.
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    ABSTRACT: In 1940, Scholander suggested that stiffened upper airways remained open and received air from highly compressible alveoli during marine mammal diving. There are little data available on the structural and functional adaptations of the marine mammal respiratory system. The aim of this research was to investigate the anatomical (gross) and structural (compliance) characteristics of excised marine mammal tracheas. Here we defined different types of tracheal structures, categorizing pinniped tracheas by varying degrees of continuity of cartilage (categories 1-4) and cetacean tracheas by varying compliance values (categories 5A and 5B). Some tracheas fell into more than one category, along their length, for example, the harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) demonstrated complete rings cranially, and as the trachea progressed caudally tracheal rings changed morphology. Dolphins and porpoises had less stiff, more compliant spiraling rings while beaked whales had very stiff, less compliant spiraling rings. The pressure-volume (P-V) relationships of isolated tracheas from different species were measured to assess structural differences between species. These findings lend evidence for pressure-induced collapse and re-inflation of lungs, perhaps influencing variability in dive depth or ventilation rates of the species investigated.
    Journal of Experimental Biology 12/2013; 217(7). DOI:10.1242/jeb.093146 · 3.00 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: abstract : Euthanasia of stranded large whales poses logistic, safety, pharmaceutical, delivery, public relations, and disposal challenges. Reasonable arguments may be made for allowing a stranded whale to expire naturally. However, slow cardiovascular collapse from gravitational effects outside of neutral buoyancy, often combined with severely debilitating conditions, motivate humane efforts to end the animal's suffering. The size of the animal and prevailing environmental conditions often pose safety concerns for stranding personnel, which take priority over other considerations. When considering chemical euthanasia, the size of the animal also necessitates large quantities of euthanasia agents. Drug residues are a concern for relay toxicity to scavengers, particularly for pentobarbital-containing euthanasia solutions. Pentobarbital is also an environmental concern because of its stability and long persistence in aquatic environments. We describe a euthanasia technique for stranded mysticetes using readily available, relatively inexpensive, preanesthetic and anesthetic drugs (midazolam, acepromazine, xylazine) followed by saturated KCl delivered via custom-made needles and a low-cost, basic, pressurized canister. This method provides effective euthanasia while moderating personnel exposure to hazardous situations and minimizing drug residues of concern for relay toxicity.
    Journal of wildlife diseases 10/2013; 50(1). DOI:10.7589/2013-03-074 · 1.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Electronic tags have proven to be valuable tools in assessing small cetacean move-ment and behavior. However, problems associated with tag size and attachment have limited duration and damaged dorsal fins. These outcomes have motivated research-ers to develop a new satellite-linked tag design that reduces detrimental effects to tagged animals, while increasing transmission durations. The goals of this study were to review previous studies that deployed single-pin transmitters and determine factors that influence transmission duration. Then, test these factors utilizing com-putational fluid dynamics (CFD) models to identify an optimal single-pin satellite-linked tag design, and evaluate this prototype through field studies. A review of four projects, which deployed 77 single-pin radio tags, determined that tags attached along the lower third of the dorsal fin and approximately 33 mm from the trailing edge resulted in longer transmission durations and reduced negative impacts to the 1
    Marine Mammal Science 08/2013; 30:656-673. DOI:10.1111/mms.12072 · 1.82 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Blubber has been used for decades to monitor exposure of marine mammals to persistent organic pollutants (POPs). However, little is known about POP variability as a function of blubber depth and across the body of the animal. Remote blubber biopsy sampling (e.g, projectile biopsy) is the most common technique used to acquire samples from free-swimming animals, yet such techniques may result in variable sampling. It is important to understand whether blubber stratification or body location affects POP concentration or the concentration of other important blubber constituents such as fatty acids (FA). To investigate the influence of sampling depth and location on POP concentration, full depth blubber samples were taken from one stranded bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) at six different body sites to assess variation in FA distribution and contaminant storage with body location. Three of the samples from different body locations were separated into histologically distinct layers to examine the effect of blubber depth and body location on POPs and FAs. In this individual, both POPs and FAs were heterogeneous with blubber depth and body location. POP concentrations were significantly greater in ventral (average ΣPBDEs 1350ng/g lipid) and anterior (average ΣPCBs 28700ng/g lipid) body locations and greater in the superficial blubber layer (average ΣPCBs 35500ng/g lipid) when compared to the deep (8390ng/g lipid) and middle (23,700ng/g lipid) layers. Proportionally more dietary FAs were found in dorsal blubber and in middle and deep layers relative to other locations while the reverse was true for biosynthesized FAs. Stratification was further examined in blubber from the same body location in five additional stranded bottlenose dolphins. Although FAs were stratified with blubber depth, lipid-normalized POPs were not significantly different with depth, indicating that POP concentrations can vary in an individual with blubber depth though the direction of POP stratification is not consistent among individuals.
    Science of The Total Environment 07/2013; 463-464C:581-588. DOI:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.06.017 · 4.10 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: When a marine mammal dives, breathing and locomotion are mechanically uncoupled, and its locomotor muscle must power swimming when oxygen is limited. The morphology of that muscle provides insight into both its oxygen storage capacity and its rate of oxygen consumption. This study investigated the m. longissimus dorsi, an epaxial swimming muscle, in the long duration, deep-diving pygmy sperm whale (Kogia breviceps) and the short duration, shallow-diving Atlantic bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus). Muscle myoglobin content, fiber type profile (based upon myosin ATPase and succinate dehydrogenase assays), and fiber size were measured for five adult specimens of each species. In addition, a photometric analysis of sections stained for succinate dehydrogenase was used to create an index of mitochondrial density. The m. longissimus dorsi of K. breviceps displayed significantly a) higher myoglobin content, b) larger proportion of Type I (slow oxidative) fibers by area, c) larger mean fiber diameters, and d) lower indices of mitochondrial density than that of T. truncatus. Thus, this primary swimming muscle of K. breviceps has greater oxygen storage capacity, reduced ATP demand, and likely a reduced rate of oxygen consumption relative to that of T. truncatus. The locomotor muscle of K. breviceps appears able to ration its high onboard oxygen stores, a feature that may allow this species to conduct relatively long duration, deep dives aerobically. J. Morphol., 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    Journal of Morphology 06/2013; 274(6). DOI:10.1002/jmor.20124 · 1.55 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Post-mortem examination of dead and live stranded beach-cast pinnipeds and cetaceans for determination of a cause of death provides valuable information for the management, mitigation and prosecution of unintentional and sometimes malicious human impacts, such as vessel collision, fishing gear entanglement and gunshot. Delayed discovery, inaccessibility, logistics, human safety concerns, and weather make these events challenging. Over the past 3 decades, in response to public concern and federal and state or provincial regulations mandating such investigations to inform mitigation efforts, there has been an increasing effort to objectively and systematically investigate these strandings from a diagnostic and forensic perspective. This Theme Section provides basic investigative methods, and case definitions for each of the more commonly recognized case presentations of human interactions in pinnipeds and cetaceans. Wild animals are often adversely affected by factors such as parasitism, anthropogenic contaminants, biotoxins, subclinical microbial infections and competing habitat uses, such as prey depletion and elevated background and episodic noise. Understanding the potential contribution of these subclinical factors in predisposing or contributing to a particular case of trauma of human origin is hampered, especially where putrefaction is significant and resources as well as expertise are limited. These case criteria descriptions attempt to acknowledge those confounding factors to enable an appreciation of the significance of the observed human-derived trauma in that broader context where possible.
    Diseases of Aquatic Organisms 04/2013; 103(3):229-64. DOI:10.3354/dao02566 · 1.59 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The health of common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) within southern Georgia estuaries is of particular concern due to high levels of anthropogenic contaminants in their tissues. Dolphins in this region have the highest polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) concentrations recorded for any marine mammal and these concentrations correlate to distance from a Superfund point-source in the Turtle/Brunswick River Estuary (TBRE). Currently, little is known about the population structure of dolphins in this region. This study identifies and compares baseline data on abundance, habitat use, site-fidelity, and ranging patterns of dolphins across two adjacent field sites; Brunswick, including the TBRE, and Sapelo, including the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve. Sapelo is relatively undeveloped and was selected for comparison to the more contaminated TBRE. Dolphin densities increased with tributary size in both sites but dolphin density and total abundance were significantly higher in Sapelo than in Brunswick. Anthropogenic stressors within the TBRE may be an important factor contributing to the differences in abundance, density, and habitat use observed in this study.
    Marine Mammal Science 04/2013; 29:114-135. DOI:10.1111/j.1748-7692.2012.00598.x · 1.82 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A chronically entangled North Atlantic right whale, with consequent emaciation was sedated, disentangled to the extent possible, administered antibiotics, and satellite tag tracked for six subsequent days. It was found dead 11 d after the tag ceased transmission. Chronic constrictive deep rope lacerations and emaciation were found to be the proximate cause of death, which may have ultimately involved shark predation. A broadhead cutter and a spring-loaded knife used for disentanglement were found to induce moderate wounds to the skin and blubber. The telemetry tag, with two barbed shafts partially penetrating the blubber was shed, leaving barbs embedded with localized histological reaction. One of four darts administered shed the barrel, but the needle was found postmortem in the whale with an 80º bend at the blubber-muscle interface. This bend occurred due to epaxial muscle movement relative to the overlying blubber, with resultant necrosis and cavitation of underlying muscle. This suggests that rigid, implanted devices that span the cetacean blubber muscle interface, where the muscle moves relative to the blubber, could have secondary health impacts. Thus we encourage efforts to develop new tag telemetry systems that do not penetrate the subdermal sheath, but still remain attached for many months.
    Marine Mammal Science 04/2013; 29(2). DOI:10.1111/j.1748-7692.2012.00591.x · 1.82 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Most marine mammals are hypothesized to routinely dive within their aerobic dive limit (ADL). Mammals that regularly perform deep, long-duration dives have locomotor muscles with elevated myoglobin concentrations and are composed of predominantly large, slow-twitch (Type I) fibers with low mitochondrial volume densities (V(mt)). These features contribute to extending ADL by increasing oxygen stores and decreasing metabolic rate. Recent tagging studies, however, have challenged the view that two groups of extreme deep-diving cetaceans dive within their ADLs. Beaked whales (Ziphius cavirostris, Cuvier and Mesoplodon densirostris, Blainville) routinely perform the deepest and longest average dives of any air-breathing vertebrate, and short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus, Gray) perform high-speed sprints at depth. We investigated the locomotor muscle morphology and estimated total body oxygen stores of these cetaceans to determine whether they (a) shared muscle design features with other deep-divers and (b) performed dives within their calculated ADLs. Muscle of both cetaceans displayed high myoglobin concentrations and large fibers, as predicted, but novel fiber profiles for diving mammals. Beaked whales possessed a sprinter's fiber-type profile, composed of approximately 80% fast-twitch (Type II) fibers with low V(mt). Approximately one-third of the muscle fibers of short-finned pilot whales were slow-twitch, oxidative, glycolytic fibers, a rare fiber-type for any mammal. The muscle morphology of beaked whales likely decreases the energetic cost of diving, while that of short-finned pilot whales supports high activity events. Calculated ADLs indicate that, at low metabolic rates, both cetaceans carry sufficient onboard oxygen to aerobically support their dives.
    Journal of Experimental Biology 02/2013; 216(10). DOI:10.1242/jeb.081323 · 3.00 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

2k Citations
184.91 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 1998–2015
    • University of North Carolina at Wilmington
      • Department of Biology and Marine Biology
      Wilmington, North Carolina, United States
  • 2006
    • The University of Tennessee Medical Center at Knoxville
      Knoxville, Tennessee, United States
  • 1993–2006
    • James Madison University
      • Department of Biology
      Harrisonburg, Virginia, United States
    • Smithsonian Institution
      Washington, Washington, D.C., United States
  • 2002
    • Armed Forces Institute of Pathology
      Ralalpindi, Punjab, Pakistan