Thoracic auscultation is an important diagnostic method used in cases of suspected pulmonary disease in many species, as respiratory sounds contain significant information on the physiology and pathology of the lungs and upper airways. Respiratory diseases are frequent in marine mammals and are often listed as one of their main causes of death. The aim of this study was to investigate and report baseline parameters for the electronic-mediated thoracic auscultation of one cetacean species and two pinniped species in captivity. Respiratory sounds from 20 captive bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), 6 California sea lions (Zalophus californianus), and 5 South African fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus) were recorded with an electronic stethoscope. The sounds were analyzed for duration of the respiratory cycle, adventitious sounds, and peak frequencies of recorded sounds during expiration and inspiration as well as for sound intensity as reflected by waveform amplitude during the respiratory cycle. In respiratory cycles of the bottlenose dolphins' expiring “on command,” the duration of the expiration was significantly shorter than the duration of the inspiration. In the examined pinnipeds of this study, there was no clear pattern concerning the duration of one breathing phase: Adventitious sounds were detected most often in bottlenose dolphins that were expiring on command and could be compared with “forced expiratory wheezes” in humans. This is the first report of forced expiratory wheezes in bottlenose dolphins; they can easily be misinterpreted as pathologic respiratory sounds. The peak frequencies of the respiratory sounds reached over 2,000 Hz in bottlenose dolphins and over 1,000 Hz in California sea lions and South African fur seals, but the variation of the frequency spectra was very high in all animals. To the authors' knowledge, this is the first systematic analysis of respiratory sounds of bottlenose dolphins and two species of pinnipeds.
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