DAO 121:241-248 (2016)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03052

Lesions associated with drowning in bycaught penguins

Ralph Eric Thijl Vanstreels1,*, Renata Hurtado2, Ana Carolina Ewbank1, Carolina Pacheco Bertozzi3, José Luiz Catão-Dias1

1Laboratory of Wildlife Comparative Pathology (LAPCOM), School of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, 05508-270 SP, Brazil
2Institute of Research and Rehabilitation of Marine Animals (IPRAM), Cariacica, 29140-130 ES, Brazil
3Biopesca, Biosciences Institute, São Paulo State University (UNESP), São Vicente, 11380-972 SP, Brazil
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Fisheries bycatch, the incidental mortality that occurs as a result of entanglement in fishing gear, is an important conservation threat to penguins and other seabirds. Identification of entanglement and drowning in beach-cast carcasses of seabirds remains a challenge, as it is still unclear what lesions are to be expected in a bycaught seabird. We necropsied 2 Magellanic penguins Spheniscus magellanicus that were entangled and drowned in gillnets. Marked distension of the lungs with foamy red fluid and marked oedema of the dorsal visceral pleura were prominent lesions consistent with those described in cases of ‘wet drowning’ in humans. On the other hand, the air sacs contained very small quantities of liquid, suggesting that absence of water in the air sacs might not be a reliable sign to exclude drowning. Other relevant findings included cutaneous lacerations and bruising in one bird and cervical and pectoral rhabdomyolysis in both birds. While cutaneous or subcutaneous hematomas may be an indication of bycatch, especially if linear or cross-linear patterns consistent with fishing nets are present, these lesions might not always be discernible and their absence does not suffice to exclude the possibility of entanglement in fishing nets. Additionally, our findings suggest that the histological examination of skeletal muscles, particularly of the neck, may provide additional clues to corroborate the diagnosis of drowning in penguins.


KEY WORDS: Fisheries · Gillnet · Mortality · Pathology · Forensic science · Asphyxia · Spheniscidae


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Cite this article as: Vanstreels RET, Hurtado R, Ewbank AC, Bertozzi CP, Catão-Dias JL (2016) Lesions associated with drowning in bycaught penguins. Dis Aquat Org 121:241-248. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03052

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