DAO 101:145-158 (2012)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02518

Skeletal abnormalities in humpback whales Megaptera novaeangliae stranded in the Brazilian breeding ground

Kátia R. Groch1,2,*, Milton C. C. Marcondes1, Adriana C. Colosio1, José Luiz Catão-Dias2

1Instituto Baleia Jubarte, Caravelas, Bahia 45900-000, Brazil
2Laboratório de Patologia Comparada de Animais Selvagens, Departamento de Patologia, Faculdade de Medicina Veterinária e Zootecnia, Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo-SP 05508-270, Brazil

ABSTRACT: Skeletal tissues of 49 humpback whales Megaptera novaeangliae that stranded between 2002 and 2011 along the Abrolhos Bank seashore and its adjacent waters in Brazil were studied. Twelve (24.5%) animals presented pathological changes in one or more bones. Degenerative changes and developmental malformations were most frequent (10.2% each), followed by inflammatory/infectious and traumatic lesions (8.2% each). Infectious diseases led to severe lesions of the caudal vertebrae of 2 whales. In one of these individuals, the lesions involved 6 caudal vertebrae, leading to ankylosis of 3 vertebrae. Degenerative changes were observed in the vertebral columns of 3 animals, involving the joints of 13 ribs of 1 individual, and in the humerus of 1 whale. Traumatic lesions, such as osseous callus in the ribs, were observed in 4 animals. In 1 whale, the rib showed severe osteomyelitis, possibly resulting from the infection of multiple fractures. Developmental abnormalities such as spina bifida on 3 cervical vertebrae of 1 whale, fusion of spinal processes on thoracic vertebrae of 1 individual and fusion of the first 2 ribs unilaterally or bilaterally in 4 animals were found. Chronic infectious conditions found in the axial skeleton may have restrained spinal mobility and had detrimental effects on the general health of the animals, contributing to stranding and death. To our knowledge, this is the first systematic study on skeletal lesions in stranded humpback whales.


KEY WORDS: Cetacean · Skeletal pathology · Infectious disease · Osteomyelitis · Spondylodiscitis · Degenerative disease · Spondyloarthrosis · Developmental abnormality


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Cite this article as: Groch KR, Marcondes MCC, Colosio AC, Catão-Dias JL (2012) Skeletal abnormalities in humpback whales Megaptera novaeangliae stranded in the Brazilian breeding ground. Dis Aquat Org 101:145-158. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02518

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