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Dolphin breath could help oceans

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Scientists have been studying the possible use of a breathalyzer to analyze oceanographic conditions by diagnosing the exhalation of bottlenose dolphins.

In a report in the journal “Analytical Chemistry,” one team describes a new instrument that can analyze the metabolites in breath from dolphins, which have been dying in alarming numbers along the Atlantic coast this year, according to a news release.

Invasive techniques such as skin biopsies and blood sampling, which are the most effective ways to test dolphins’ health, are difficult to perform. But breath offers an alternative. Metabolites can hint at a person’s diet, activity level, environmental exposures or disease state.

Researchers have begun to gather this information on marine mammals to establish baseline breath profiles of healthy animals, and have identified changes in the breath of animals affected by disease or other factors.

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