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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 149:145-154 (2022)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03670

Spontaneous neoplasms in harbour porpoises Phocoena phocoena

K. M. Gregor1,#, J. Lakemeyer2,#, L. L. IJsseldijk3, U. Siebert2,*, P. Wohlsein1

1Department of Pathology, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation, Bünteweg 17, 30559 Hannover, Germany
2Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research (ITAW), University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation, Werftstrasse 6, 25761 Büsum, Germany
3Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Biomolecular Health Sciences, Division of Pathology, Utrecht University, Yalelaan 1, 3584, CL, Utrecht, the Netherlands
*Corresponding author:
#These authors contributed equally to this work

ABSTRACT: Harbour porpoises are widely distributed in the North Atlantic and represent the most abundant cetacean species in the North and Baltic Seas. Spontaneous neoplasms are relatively rarely reported in cetaceans, and only little is known about neoplasia in harbour porpoises. Thus, archival material was reviewed for spontaneous neoplasms in harbour porpoises recorded during post-mortem examinations between 1999 and 2018. Neoplasms were identified in 7 adult porpoises: 6 animals originating from the North and Baltic Seas and investigated as part of German and Dutch systematic health monitoring programs, and 1 porpoise from Greenlandic waters. The tumours were of different histogenetic origins and further characterised by histology and immunohistochemistry. One individual had a neoplasia in the digestive tract (adenocarcinoma, n = 1); 4 animals, in the genital tract (Sertoli cell tumour, n = 1; genital leiomyoma/fibroleiomyoma, n = 3); and 2 porpoises, in endocrine organs (adrenal adenoma, n = 2). This is the first report of an adenocarcinoma in the liver, a testicular Sertoli cell tumour and adrenocortical adenomas in harbour porpoises. The cause of the tumorigenesis in examined cases remains undetermined. The involvement of endogenous factors, including mutation of cell cycle regulating genes, such as the tumour-suppressor gene p53, cannot be ruled out. The aetiopathogenetic significance of exogenous factors, such as infectious agents like liver flukes or anthropogenic factors, including persistent organic pollutants, should be the subject of future investigations.


KEY WORDS: Harbour porpoise · Phocoena phocoena · Cetacean · Odontoceti · Spontaneous neoplasms · Environmental effects


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Cite this article as: Gregor KM, Lakemeyer J, IJsseldijk LL, Siebert U, Wohlsein P (2022) Spontaneous neoplasms in harbour porpoises Phocoena phocoena. Dis Aquat Org 149:145-154. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03670

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