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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 75:259-264 (2007)  -  doi:10.3354/dao075259

Spondylitis in a humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) from the southeast Pacific

Fernando Félix1,2,*, Ben Haase1, Windsor E. Aguirre1,3

1Fundación Ecuatoriana para el Estudio de Mamíferos Marinos (FEMM), PO Box 09-01-11905, Guayaquil, Ecuador
2Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Av. 12 de Octubre 1076 y Roca, Quito, Ecuador
3 Department of Ecology and Evolution, State University of New York, Stony Brook, New York 11794, USA

ABSTRACT: A 7.25 m long male humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) with spondylitis was found beached on August 13, 1994 at Ancon, Ecuador (2°23’S, 80°47’W). The condition involved at least 11 vertebrae, 7 lumbar (L4 to L11) and 4 caudal (Ca1 to Ca4). Partial fusion of vertebrae was observed as a result of intervertebral bony proliferation, likely impeding full motion. The relatively young age of this specimen and the severity of the deformities suggest an infectious, rather than degenerative, process. The gross findings are most consistent with some type of spondyloarthritis. Although this condition has previously been identified in a number of cetacean species, the pathogenesis, population impact and ecologic implications have not been fully assessed. This is the third case described for humpback whales and the first for a humpback whale from the SE Pacific.

KEY WORDS: Spondylitis · Humpback whale · Ecuador

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