DAO 88:85-90 (2009)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02095

Prevalence and pathology of lungworm infection in bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus from southwest Florida

D. A. Fauquier1,*, M. J. Kinsel2, M. D. Dailey3, G. E. Sutton1, M. K. Stolen4, R. S. Wells1,5, F. M. D. Gulland3

1Mote Marine Laboratory, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, Florida 34236, USA
2University of Illinois Zoological Pathology Program, 2160 S. First Ave., Maywood, Illinois 60153, USA
3The Marine Mammal Center, 2000 Bunker Rd., Fort Cronkhite, Sausalito, California 94965, USA
4Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, 6295 Sea Harbor Dr., Orlando, Florida 32821, USA
5Chicago Zoological Society, c/o Mote Marine Laboratory, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, Florida 34236, USA

ABSTRACT: Parasitism of the respiratory system is a relatively common finding in stranded cetaceans; however, no systematic investigations regarding the severity, distribution, and clinical consequences of these infections in bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus have been conducted previously. The present study determined the prevalence of lungworm infections in dead stranded (n = 22) and live bottlenose dolphins (n = 44) from southwestern Florida, USA, during the period from 2003 to 2005. Dead stranded bottlenose dolphins were necropsied and lungs were examined visually, by palpation, and histologically for lesions consistent with verminous pneumonia. When present, nematodes were counted, measured, and identified to species based upon their morphology. Dolphin feces and blowhole swabs were collected and examined for nematode larvae. Lungworm prevalence was 77% in dead animals (n = 22). The lesions in most cases were mild, chronic, and not the primary cause of death. Only 13% of dead animals examined had patent infections, with larvae present in blowhole and fecal cytology, and only 18% of animals had intact worms present at necropsy, with a geometric mean intensity of infection of 22.6 worms animal–1. Intact worms were identified as either Halocercus lagenorhynchi or Skrjabinalius cryptocephalus. The highest prevalence of active infections was found in neonates and calves, including 1 stillborn calf. For free-ranging animals, all blowhole swabs (n = 44) were negative, and fecal cytology (n = 22) showed a 3% prevalence of patent infection. Findings from the present study support the theory that bottlenose dolphins can be infected transplacentally by lungworms. The impact that such infections may have on neonatal survival is unknown; however, these infections could increase neonatal mortality.


KEY WORDS: Lungworm · Bottlenose dolphin · Nematode · Transplacental infection · Florida ·Tursiops truncatus


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Cite this article as: Fauquier DA, Kinsel MJ, Dailey MD, Sutton GE, Stolen MK, Wells RS, Gulland FMD (2009) Prevalence and pathology of lungworm infection in bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus from southwest Florida. Dis Aquat Org 88:85-90. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02095

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