SeaWorld orca subject of cutting-edge heart study

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Researchers at UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography are conducting a heart-monitoring study on a 51-year-old killer whale at SeaWorld.

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MISSION BAY, Calif. — Researchers at UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography are conducting a heart-monitoring study on a 51-year-old killer whale at SeaWorld.

The subject is SeaWorld’s oldest female orca, Corky. For the first time on a killer whale, researchers are using a specially-designed heart monitor to track the 8,400-pound killer whale’s every beat. Orca’s were chosen because they are the largest deep sea-diving whale in captivity.

Researchers will use this data to eventually help them figure out what sounds like sonar or ship noises can stress whales, leading to what they think is the rapidly occurring irregular heartbeats of wild whales.

“Corky doesn’t even notice when we put them on her,” said lead SeaWorld trainer Katey Danforth. “We took baby steps with her. And now we’re figuring out more and more and it’s becoming a way to get the research and the data we need and it’s so exciting to be a part of that.”

The research will continue for another year. The group hopes to then take this technology out into the wild.

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