DAO 103:1-7 (2013)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02568

Evidence of sirenian cold stress syndrome in dugongs Dugong dugon from southeast Queensland, Australia

Helen C. Owen1,2,*, Mark Flint1,2, Colin J. Limpus3, Chiara Palmieri1, Paul C. Mills1,2

1School of Veterinary Science, and 2School of Veterinary Science, The University of Queensland Veterinary-Marine Animal Research, Teaching and Investigation unit (Vet-MARTI), Gatton, Queensland 4343, Australia
3Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (DEHP), Aquatic Threatened Species, PO Box 2454 City, Brisbane, Queensland 4001, Australia

ABSTRACT: Cold stress syndrome (CSS) is the term used to describe the range of clinical signs and chronic disease processes that can occur in Florida, USA, manatees Trichechus manatus latirostris exposed to water temperatures below 20°C for extended periods. Although no cold-related adverse events have been described in the closely related dugong Dugong dugon thus far, it has been established that they make movements in response to water temperatures lower than about 17 to 18°C. In this study, archive reports for dugong carcasses submitted to The University of Queensland School of Veterinary Science for post mortem examination during 2010 to 2012 were examined. These animals had been recovered from Moreton Bay, southeast Queensland, Australia, and 10 out of 14 fulfilled the criteria for ‘potential cold stress cases.’ Epidermal hyperplasia and secondary bacterial infection, serous atrophy of pericardial adipose tissue, and multisystem abscessation were features commonly noted in these cases. Water temperature data were correlated with the time of year that carcasses were submitted for examination. Higher numbers of carcasses diagnosed with potential CSS were noted during sustained periods in which water temperature was below 20°C. Given the pattern of increased submission of non-specifically, chronically unwell animals in the colder months and evidence that environmental conditions known to precipitate CSS occur in southeast Queensland, it is probable that, like manatees, dugongs in this area are affected by CSS. Further investigation to confirm and to better characterize the syndrome is recommended to refine management practices and improve treatment of affected animals.


KEY WORDS: Dugong · Sirenia · Cold stress syndrome · Disease · Temperature


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Cite this article as: Owen HC, Flint M, Limpus CJ, Palmieri C, Mills PC (2013) Evidence of sirenian cold stress syndrome in dugongs Dugong dugon from southeast Queensland, Australia. Dis Aquat Org 103:1-7. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02568

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