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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 141:25-38 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03509

Pathologic findings and causes of death in bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus stranded along the Georgia coast, USA (2007-2013)

M. Seguel1,2,*, R. C. George3, G. Maboni2,4, S. Sanchez4,7, A. Page-Karjian5, E. Wirth6, W. McFee6, N. L. Gottdenker1

1Department of Pathology, College of Veterinary Medicine, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA
2Department of Pathobiology, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, NIG2W1, Canada
3Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Conservation Section, Brunswick, GA 31520, USA
4Athens Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, College of Veterinary Medicine, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA
5Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Florida Atlantic University, Fort Pierce, FL 34946, USA
6National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, Charleston, SC 29412, USA
7Department of Infectious Diseases, College of Veterinary Medicine, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Between 2007 and 2013, before the 2013 cetacean morbillivirus outbreak, 26 fresh bottlenose dolphin carcasses were necropsied on the coast of Georgia, USA. Here, we present the pathological and microbiological findings associated with their most likely causes of death. The primary cause of death was determined in 25 individuals and included systemic bacterial infection (n = 7), verminous and bacterial bronchopneumonia (n = 5), drowning/entanglement (n = 5), disseminated histoplasmosis (n = 1), intestinal intussusception (n = 1), vegetative endocarditis (n = 1), meningitis (n = 1), necrotizing dermatitis (n = 1), disseminated angiomatosis (n = 1), emaciation (n = 1) and stingray spine trauma (n = 1). Histiocytic and eosinophilic bronchopneumonia associated with Halocerchus sp. infection was observed in 69% of the animals (18/26) and eosinophilic gastritis due to Anisakidae nematodes was found in 36% of the examined stomachs (8/22). Moderate to severe eosinophilic pancreatitis with fibrosis was observed in 4 animals infected with Brachycladiidae trematodes. Proliferative and ulcerative lymphoplasmacytic dermatitis was found in 5 animals and was considered to contribute to deteriorated health status in 2 calves. Pulmonary and lymph node angiomatosis were observed in 15 and 10 animals, respectively. In at least 2 animals, the concentration of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in the blubber exceeded 1500 µg g-1 of lipid. Bottlenose dolphins stranded on the Georgia coast have a wide range of inflammatory lesions associated with a variety of helminth, bacterial, and fungal pathogens. Some resident animals have also been exposed to high levels of PCB contamination, which could reduce host immunocompetence. Higher exposure to these or other pathogens could result in further decline in the health of resident and migrant dolphin populations in this region.


KEY WORDS: Marine mammals · Pathology · Disease · Bottlenose dolphin · Georgia · Bronchopneumonia · Parasites · PCB


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Cite this article as: Seguel M, George RC, Maboni G, Sanchez S and others (2020) Pathologic findings and causes of death in bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus stranded along the Georgia coast, USA (2007-2013). Dis Aquat Org 141:25-38. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03509

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