Probing the heart of a gentle giant

By Connie Orcutt • Published: October 1st, 2013
Category: Animal Airwaves

Among those working to protect Florida’s endangered gentle giants, manatees, are the veterinarians and researchers studying their biology and health.

Researchers at the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine recently developed a method of looking inside the hearts of living manatees. First, the UF team designed a table that can hold a 2,000-pound manatee. Then, echocardiography was used to visualize the heart. An ultrasound probe sliding across a manatee’s skin transfers pictures of the moving heart to a monitor, allowing examination and measurement of heart valves and chambers.

Researchers can now share the data gathered from normal manatees with veterinarians treating sick ones so heart health can be assessed. This is just one of the attempts used to save endangered lives, one animal at a time.