Dolphins don't breathe through their esophagus

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DaveC426913
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TL;DR Summary
Am I nuts or is this "science" article barmy?
"There have been two dead dolphins found in this area with whole octopuses lodged in their throats. The researchers assume that the dolphins suffocated."
https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/wi...T20qVdiLppDxWkXRfsU8_JjyWdUBOiBUuc4QjFde7EdLk

I don't doubt dolphins like to subdue their prey before consuming it, but it can't be for the reason the article says. (Can it?)

The dolphin's esophagus and trachea are separate. They can't suffocate on an octopus in their throat.I guess this is a case of the article writer getting one detail wrong, and spinning an entire article the wrong way because of it.
 
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  • #2
DaveC426913 said:
TL;DR Summary: Am I nuts or is this "science" article barmy?

"There have been two dead dolphins found in this area with whole octopuses lodged in their throats. The researchers assume that the dolphins suffocated."
https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/wi...T20qVdiLppDxWkXRfsU8_JjyWdUBOiBUuc4QjFde7EdLk

I don't doubt dolphins like to subdue their prey before consuming it, but it can't be for the reason the article says. (Can it?)

The dolphin's esophagus and trachea are separate. They can't suffocate on an octopus in their throat.I guess this is a case of the article writer getting one detail wrong, and spinning an entire article the wrong way because of it.
Actually, they do look close together, if the area in front of the opening to the oesophagus was full of octopus that could also block the larynx.

1694436010153.png
 
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pinball1970 said:
Actually, they do close together, if the area in front of the opening to the oesophagus was full of octopus that could also block the larynx.

View attachment 331801
Yeah, I had to look at a few diagrams to find one that made it clear they're distinct paths.

The only thing I can think of is that maybe a bulk in the esophagus* could press on and block the neighboring trachea. But it's still a bit murky.

* oesophagus - we who speak the Queen's English - even separated by the Big Pond - need to stick together.
 
  • #4
More on microbiology, but this is all I could find:
https://microbewiki.kenyon.edu/inde...pper_respiratory_tract_of_bottlenose_dolphins

Copied from
https://www.schoolnet.org.za/PILAfrica/en/webs/17963/respiratory-system.html

"The respiratory system of whales certainly has some unusual features, but they are adaptations to prevent water entering the airways: the nasal passages are complex and convoluted, and the larynx (the upper end of the respiratory tube) extends up into the nasal cavity rather than opening into the throat. Powerful muscles form a special plug within the blowhole, preventing water from entering the lungs when the dolphin is underwater."
 
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I found this

https://hakaimagazine.com/news/scientists-discover-mouth-breathing-dolphin/
“Unlike humans, a dolphin’s larynx, which carries air to the lungs, and oesophagus, which carries food to the stomach, do not usually share an opening.

In other words, dolphins don’t have to worry about something “going down the wrong pipe.” But the two systems aren’t totally separated. The dolphin’s larynx actually punches straight through its oesophagus.
This arrangement could actually be a problem for dolphins when they’re trying to eat a particularly large fish”
 
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https://tamucc-ir.tdl.org/bitstream/handle/1969.6/87016/Scerbo_Andrew_thesis.pdf

"The combination of the neck shortening and the migration of the airway to the apex of the head brought the respiratory tract to a vertical alignment posterior to the oral cavity in an orthogonal orientation, resulting in the esophagus bifurcating around the laryngeal junction (“goose beak”); the esophagus reunites posterior to the respiratory passageway continuing toward the stomach on the dorsal side of the trachea."

Perhaps one tentacle using that esophagus bifurcation to wrap around and choke the trachea?

1694443458203.jpeg
 
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1694736691529.png

This diagram doesn't really make it any clearer.

But I suppose I have to accept the plausibility that a dolphin could suffocate if something lodged in its throat.
 
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I also did not think these diagrams were very information about your question.

I guess its possible that if something got lodged in the esophagus where it crosses the trachea in the diagram, it could push pressure on the trachea and force it closed from the outside.
However, I would expect a trachea to be reinforced like it is in humans with rings of cartilage. This would resist it getting collapsed from the outside.
But maybe its different in the dolphin going deep underwater.
 
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Yeah. I'm thinkin' of reaching out to an expert. Maybe a Cetecean Biologist.
 
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Not at all that uncommon from a counting the number of individuals who suffocate from attempting to eat a large fish.
https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0066828
On gross examination, all of the dolphins demonstrated fish lodged in the esophagus displacing or compressing the larynx

I wouldn't doubt the researchers being not sure what they are saying.
 
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  • #11
256bits said:
Not at all that uncommon from a counting the number of individuals who suffocate from attempting to eat a large fish.
https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0066828
On gross examination, all of the dolphins demonstrated fish lodged in the esophagus displacing or compressing the larynx

I wouldn't doubt the researchers being not sure what they are saying.
OK, I guess that's pretty definitive. Thanks!
 
  • #12
256bits said:
I wouldn't doubt the researchers being not sure what they are saying.
DaveC426913 said:
OK, I guess that's pretty definitive.
I'm getting dizzy... o0)
 
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  • #13
berkeman said:
I'm getting dizzy... o0)
Well I assumed he was originally referring to the first article I cited in the OP. It's light enough on deets that they might have "abridged" the facts.

But the paper 256bits cited is on the study of dolphin suffocation by blockage of the oesophagus, so...
 
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Is there a fast and steady rule on when to use, and when to not use, double negatives.
If so, I seem to have broken it.

Yes, I was referring to the researchers in the original study of the opening post.
 
  • #15
DaveC426913 said:
* oesophagus - we who speak the Queen's English - even separated by the Big Pond - need to stick together.
For the sake of the pedants amongst us, I might point out that we have a KING these days. I think the ownership of language passes along the line of succession. o:)

PS Even Wordle spelling has all gone to hell since it moved to New York.
 
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https://www.earthtouchnews.com/oceans/whales-and-dolphins/mouth-breathing-dolphin-makes-history/

[...]

Dolphins evolved a breathing hole on the top of their head to make breathing in air while submerged less dangerous. During the course of evolution, the dolphin larynx changed its shape to form a kind of plug that reaches into the nasal cavity. This bizarre plug, sometimes called a goosebeak or epiglottic spout, tunnels right through the oesophagus and lodges snugly in the air passage leading to the blowhole, resulting in "complete separation of the respiratory and digestive tracts".

Scientists have long known that this laryngeal plug can be moved out of the way. Veterinarians needing to reach into a dolphin's stomach to retrieve accidentally swallowed objects will often fight against the plug as the dolphin tenses its muscles to keep it in place. Sometimes after a dolphin has been anaesthetised, it will take a couple of breaths through its mouth after the ventilation tube has been removed, before its respiratory muscles come back online to stick the plug back in position. And then there are examples of dolphins that choked to death when they shifted their laryngeal plug aside to swallow large fish. In one case, a pilot whale choked to death when a fish tried to escape through its blowhole.

Even though dolphins seem to have some muscular control over their larynx, it was widely believed that they couldn't – or at least wouldn't – attempt to move their laryngeal plug (and risk drowning) in order to breathe through their mouths. According to experts, shifting the plug is a risky behaviour that is used only as a last resort.

[...]
 
  • #17
DaveC426913 said:
Yeah. I'm thinkin' of reaching out to an expert. Maybe a Cetecean Biologist.

DaveC426913 said:
But I suppose I have to accept the plausibility that a dolphin could suffocate if something lodged in its throat.
Dolphins are not solitary creatures but consider their difficulty performing the Heimlich maneuver.
In fact how would the affected individual cetacean even execute the universal signal for choking?
Serious business.
 

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