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Keywords:

  • physiology;
  • captive marine mammals;
  • conservation;
  • management

Abstract

Some aspects of captive marine mammal research have become matters of controversy, largely due to a misunderstanding of the value of such studies and of their importance to effective management and conservation of these species. Understanding of the physiological mechanisms underlying the special adaptations for aquatic life that marine mammals demonstrate provides essential information relating to their health and survival. The need for such information is increasing as disturbance of the world's marine environments steadily escalates. While studies of these animals in their natural habitats contribute much to our comprehension of their biology, a more complete understanding of the physiological basis of their behavior depends upon experimental laboratory investigations. Some of the new knowledge thus gained has potentially important implications for human medicine.