September 20th, 2012 Nakai, an 11 year old male orca, was injured in a fracas with two other male orcas during a private after hours show for corporate guests at SeaWorld San Diego and was left with this gaping wound (the missing piece was later found at the bottom of the pool). (See Tim Zimmermann’s Blog )
While this injury looks painful and would certainly hospitalize a human, cetaceans have an astounding ability to heal that science is just beginning to understand.
Michael Zasloff, M.D., Ph.D., a Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) scientist, interviewed dolphin handlers from around the world and discovered dolphins’ “remarkable” and “mysterious” ability to heal, a skill that he says was previously poorly documented.
“How does the dolphin not bleed to death after a shark bite? How is it that dolphins appear not to suffer significant pain? What prevents infection of a significant injury? And how can a deep, gaping wound heal in such a way that the animal’s body contour is restored?” Zasloff asked as part of his research. “Comparable injuries in humans would be fatal.”
As part of his research he proposed that the same diving mechanism (diving reflex) that diverts blood from the periphery of the body during a dolphin’s deep plunge down in water depths also could be triggered after an injury. He also looked into the dolphin’s apparent indifference to pain threshold, the prevention of infection and dolphin wounds’ ability to heal in a way that restores its body contour. As a conclusion, he said that the dolphin’s healing ability is less like human healing and more like regeneration.(The Jerusalem Post).
The photos below show the healing process as a dolphin recovers from a severe shark bite. In an interview for National Public Radio last year, Zasloff explained that “Dolphin blubber makes compounds like organohalogens that act as natural antibiotics and keep the tissue from getting infected. The next mystery is the recovery of contour [of the body]. When the animal restores its wound, it regenerates the complex structure of blubber. It doesn’t create a scar; it produces a sort of patch that ultimately is woven back into the surrounding tissue…And what is equally amazing is that handlers who know these animals will tell you that they observe absolutely no indications in the animal’s behavior that it’s in pain”.
Full story: Seattle PI