Stress physiology in marine mammals: how well do they fit the terrestrial model?

Journal of Comparative Physiology. B, Biochemical, Systemic, and Environmental Physiology
Shannon AtkinsonKendall Mashburn


Stressors are commonly accepted as the causal factors, either internal or external, that evoke physiological responses to mediate the impact of the stressor. The majority of research on the physiological stress response, and costs incurred to an animal, has focused on terrestrial species. This review presents current knowledge on the physiology of the stress response in a lesser studied group of mammals, the marine mammals. Marine mammals are an artificial or pseudo grouping from a taxonomical perspective, as this group represents several distinct and diverse orders of mammals. However, they all are fully or semi-aquatic animals and have experienced selective pressures that have shaped their physiology in a manner that differs from terrestrial relatives. What these differences are and how they relate to the stress response is an efflorescent topic of study. The identification of the many facets of the stress response is critical to marine mammal management and conservation efforts. Anthropogenic stressors in marine ecosystems, including ocean noise, pollution, and fisheries interactions, are increasing and the dramatic responses of some marine mammals to these stressors have elevated concerns over the impact of human-related ac...Continue Reading


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