DAO 115:175-184 (2015)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02895

Mucocutaneous lesions in free-ranging Atlantic bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus from the southeastern USA

Gregory D. Bossart1,2,*, Adam M. Schaefer3, Stephen McCulloch3,6, Juli Goldstein3,6, Patricia A. Fair4, John S. Reif

1Georgia Aquarium, 225 Baker Street, NW, Atlanta, Georgia 30313, USA
2Division of Comparative Pathology, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, PO Box 016960 (R-46) Miami, Florida 33101, USA
3Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University, 5600 US 1 North, Ft. Pierce, Florida 34946, USA
4National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Ocean Service, Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research, 219 Fort Johnson Rd, Charleston, South Carolina 29412, USA
5Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523, USA
6Present address: Protect Wild Dolphins Alliance, 2046 Treasure Coast Plaza, Vero Beach, Florida 32960, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Mucocutaneous lesions were biopsied from free-ranging Atlantic bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus inhabiting the Indian River Lagoon (IRL), Florida, and estuarine waters of Charleston (CHS), South Carolina, USA, between 2003 and 2013. A total of 78 incisional biopsies from 58 dolphins (n = 43 IRL, n = 15 CHS) were examined. Thirteen dolphins had 2 lesions biopsied at the same examination, and 6 dolphins were re-examined and re-biopsied at time intervals varying from 1 to 8 yr. Biopsy sites included the skin (n = 47), tongue (n = 2), and genital mucosa (n = 29). Pathologic diagnoses were: orogenital sessile papilloma (39.7%), cutaneous lobomycosis (16.7%), tattoo skin disease (TSD; 15.4%), nonspecific chronic to chronic-active dermatitis (15.4%), and epidermal hyperplasia (12.8%). Pathologic diagnoses from dolphins with 2 lesions were predominately orogenital sessile papillomas (n = 9) with nonspecific chronic to chronic-active dermatitis (n = 4), TSD (n = 3), lobomycosis (n = 1), and epidermal hyperplasia (n = 1). Persistent pathologic diagnoses from the same dolphins re-examined and re-biopsied at different times included genital sessile papillomas (n = 3), lobomycosis (n = 2), and nonspecific dermatitis (n = 2). This is the first study documenting the various types, combined prevalence, and progression of mucocutaneous lesions in dolphins from the southeastern USA. The data support other published findings describing the health patterns in dolphins from these geographic regions. Potential health impacts related to the observed suite of lesions are important for the IRL and CHS dolphin populations, since previous studies have indicated that both populations are affected by complex infectious diseases often associated with immunologic disturbances and anthropogenic contaminants.


KEY WORDS: Papilloma · Lobomycosis · Lacazia loboi · Tattoo skin disease · Dermatitis · Hyperplasia · Zoonosis · Cetacean · Pathology


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Cite this article as: Bossart GD, Schaefer AM, McCulloch S, Goldstein J, Fair PA, Reif JS (2015) Mucocutaneous lesions in free-ranging Atlantic bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus from the southeastern USA. Dis Aquat Org 115:175-184. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02895

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