Online Program Schedule

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Session Schedule & Abstracts

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Wednesday 29th June, 2016

Welcome & Plenary Session 1: Joy Reidenberg

Room: Salon E   1:00 pm–2:30 pm

Moderator(s): A. Huysseune, L. M. Witmer
PLN1-1  1:00 pm  Modifying the mammalian model: Whassup with whales? Reidenberg JS*, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Abstract: Whales (including dolphins and porpoises) have unusual anatomy by any standard. Nearly every system of the typical mammalian body was dramatically transformed. This talk will dive into the wild world of their weird anatomy, wacky evolutionary story, and wonderful adaptations. The body shape became hydrodynamic, including smooth and deforming skin, yet they retain hairs. Fins emerged to stabilize position in 3-D space, yet the semicircular canals are reduced. Flippers evolved from front limbs to regulate locomotion, yet each flipper retains the complete skeleton of an upper extremity. Lower extremities disappeared, but the remnants of a pelvis can be found. The tail elongated and evolved flukes for powerful propulsion, yet the up-and-down motion of the vertebral column is reminiscent of galloping on the land. External genitalia are withdrawn into slits during locomotion, but can be extruded to enable internal fertilization and lactation. The diet changed from herbivorous to carnivorous, although the stomach retains multiple chambers similar to that of ruminants. Oral modifications enable prey capture, but vary greatly between toothed and baleen whales. External pinnae are gone, but mandibular fat pads now catch and channel sounds from the jaws to the ears. Nostrils migrated caudally to allow efficient breathing while swimming and protection from water intrusion, but reveal a dependence on breathing air. Nasal and laryngeal modifications enable sound production and transmission, although whales still generate sounds pneumatically. Diving adaptations include increased muscle myoglobin, reduced heart rate, extreme breath holding, and collapsible/expandable lungs, but whales are still susceptible to decompression sickness. Although bone necrosis indicates accumulated damage from diving, vascular specializations may limit decompression sickness. Mimicking these adaptations may lead to developing better medical treatments, new protective devices, or improved technologies.

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