So today was all about nutrition, animal training and communication. When they say Wednesday is hump day this is exactly what they mean, I am sad the week is halfway over, yet I am exhausted as I struggled to sleep last night.
Anyways onto nutrition this morning we looked at the comparative anatomy between different marine species to start which was pretty amazing. I thought the differences between ruminants, equine and carnivores was crazy however the differences between seal species makes it seem like it was easy! We then moved onto nutrition with a very fast but comprehensive review of the different sources of nutrients and how preparation is also important before moving onto clinical nutrition. This was especially interesting as marine mammals suffer pretty similar diseases to terrestrial mammals in cases of low and insufficient minerals or vitamins, however too much can also be fatal through toxicity so it really is a balancing act.
What I think surprised me most was that marine mammals can suffer dehydration from not drinking enough! I guess I always thought as they live in water they are ok, however with dolphins for example their kidneys cannot desalinate (remove the salt from salt water) so without fresh water they suffer dehydration and the consequences of this. Now you may ask where they get fresh water from if they live in the sea, the majority of this actually comes from their food that is metabolised and broken down.
Something else that I also thought was very cool was that some seal and sealion species do not chew, when they are fed fish they swallow it headfirst. They even use their tongue to turn it around in their mouths if it is in the wrong direction! It has been suggested that in the wild dolphins will “chew” on a puffer fish to release the toxins which appear to be pleasurable for them.
Moving onto the afternoon session we started looking at training, now a lot of people still mistaking believe this is just for “circus tricks” when in reality it is so much more. In the zoo veterinary world medical training is used as an alternative to sedation, anaesthesia and immobilisation – it allows safe and stress free veterinary care of potentially deadly animals. For example have a look at this photo…
Here is a dolphin, the body is mainly muscle so it’s very strong, yet it is laying there on its back in the water to allow for the temperature to be checked. I believe this is pretty amazing, medical training is something that can be used anywhere but seems to mainly be used in zoos. Just imagine if all the dogs and cats that vets see could do this, just stand whilst the temperature was checked, many pets visiting the vets are so stressed and petrified just being in the building before anything is even started!
So going on from this we did a practical session of training each other, it was really interesting as without language it is very difficult to communicate exactly what you want an animal (or someone else) to do!