A dolphin can often survive having a basketball-sized chunk bitten out during a shark attack. One surgeon wants to learn how they accomplish this feat.
(ABC News)- The remarkably clever dolphin has amused us with its tricks and intrigued us with its intelligence, and now it turns out that it routinely defies death. It can ignore a wound that would kill a human within hours. Dolphins, according to a new study, are frequently attacked by sharks that leave gaping holes bigger than a basketball.
"Why don't they bleed to death?" asks Michael Zasloff, professor of surgery and immunology at Georgetown University Medical Center. "Why don't they get infections? Why aren't they eaten after the injury? Why doesn't the shark finish the job?"
Zasloff thinks he may have at least partial answers to those questions, although much more research needs to be done.
"I have concluded that what we see when we look at the dolphin is a medical miracle," he said in a telephone interview. And if scientists can figure out exactly how the dolphin cheats death, maybe humans can eventually learn how to do it too, through better treatment of all sorts of injuries, not just shark bites.
Zasloff is a surgeon, not a dolphin expert, but his interest in this sea-going mammal began nine years ago when he was visiting a marine lab in Scotland. He was told that 70 to 80 percent of the dolphins that swim in the waters near Australia have shark bites.
"When I heard that I was taken aback," he said. "How in the heck does a mammal, like you and me, survive a shark bite in the ocean, unattended, with no antibiotics? "Keep on reading...