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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 142:239-253 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03550

Causes of cetacean stranding and death on the Catalonian coast (western Mediterranean Sea), 2012-2019

María Cuvertoret-Sanz1,2, Carlos López-Figueroa1,3, Alicia O’Byrne4, Albert Canturri1,2, Bernat Martí-Garcia1,2, Ester Pintado1,2, Lola Pérez4, Llilianne Ganges3, Alex Cobos4, María Lourdes Abarca1,5, Juan Antonio Raga6, Marie-François Van Bressem7, Mariano Domingo1,2,3,*

1Departament de Sanitat i Anatomia Animals, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra, Spain
2Servei de Diagnòstic de Patologia Veterinària, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra, Spain
3IRTA, Centre de Recerca en Sanitat Animal, Campus de la Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra, Spain
4Facultat de Veterinària de Barcelona, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra, Spain
5Veterinary Mycology Group, Facultat de Veterinària, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Bellaterra, Spain
6Marine Zoology Unit, Cavanilles Institute of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology, Science Park, University of Valencia, PO Box 22085, 46071 Valencia, Spain
7Cetacean Conservation Medicine Group, Peruvian Centre for Cetacean Research, Museo de Delfines, Lima 20, Peru
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The causes of cetacean stranding and death along the Catalan coast between 2012 and 2019 were systematically investigated. Necropsies and detailed pathological investigations were performed on 89 well-preserved stranded cetaceans, including 72 striped dolphins Stenella coeruleoalba, 9 Risso’s dolphins Grampus griseus, 5 bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus, 1 common dolphin Delphinus delphis, 1 Cuvier’s beaked whale Ziphius cavirostris and 1 fin whale Balaenoptera physalus. The cause of death was determined for 89.9% of the stranded cetaceans. Fisheries interaction was the most frequent cause of death in striped dolphins (27.8%) and bottlenose dolphins (60%). Cetacean morbillivirus (CeMV) was detected on the Catalan coast from 2016 to 2017, causing systemic disease and death in 8 of the 72 (11.1%) striped dolphins. Chronic CeMV infection of the central nervous system was observed from 2018-2019 in a further 5 striped dolphins. Thus, acute and chronic CeMV disease caused mortality in 18% of striped dolphins and 14.6% of all 89 cetaceans. Brucella ceti was isolated in 6 striped dolphins and 1 bottlenose dolphin with typical brucellosis lesions and in 1 striped dolphin with systemic CeMV. Sinusitis due to severe infestation by the nematode parasite Crassicauda grampicola caused the death of 4 out of 6 adult Risso’s dolphins. Maternal separation, in some cases complicated with septicemia, was a frequent cause of death in 13 of 14 calves. Other less common causes of death were encephalomalacia of unknown origin, septicemia, peritonitis due to gastric perforation by parasites and hepatitis caused by Sarcocystis spp.


KEY WORDS: Causes of death · Mediterranean Sea · Cetaceans · Morbillivirus · CeMV · Brucella ceti · Brucellosis · Necropsy · Strandings · Fisheries


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Cite this article as: Cuvertoret-Sanz M, López-Figueroa C, O’Byrne A, Canturri A and others (2020) Causes of cetacean stranding and death on the Catalonian coast (western Mediterranean Sea), 2012-2019. Dis Aquat Org 142:239-253. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03550

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