The Amazing, Regenerating Dolphin

by Rebecca on August 3, 2011

in Animal Stories

By Jen Quraishi in Mother Jones

Just Taken Pics/Flickr

Author Michael Zasloff, a professor of immunology at Georgetown University, wondered how dolphins survive huge shark bites without bleeding to death or falling victim to infection from the many bacteria in sharks’ mouths. Not only do dolphins recover from “basketball-sized” bites, they regenerate the missing flesh and heal over with no scarring or sign of injury. “That’s impossible,” Zasloff told ABC, “truly impossible.”

Zasloff theorizes that dolphins can produce stem cells that regenerate the bitten-off tissue, or any other kind of tissue that’s needed. “The repair of a gaping wound to an appearance that is near normal  requires the ability of the injured animal to knit newly formed tissues  with the existing fabric of adipocytes, collagen and elastic fibers,” Zasloff explained. “The dolphin’s healing is similar to how mammalian fetuses  are able to heal in the womb.”

But what about infection? Even if the dolphin didn’t fall prey to the shark’s bacteria, swimming around in the ocean with an open wound invites infection. Zasloff thinks that dolphins may have their own little supply of antibiotics, siphoned off from other ocean creatures like plankton or algae when the dolphin eats them, and then stored in fat for later use.

To read more see: Mother Jones

 


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