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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

    DAO prepress abstract   -  DOI:

    Presenting vertebral deformities in bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus calves from a protected population in northeast Scotland

    Kevin P. Robinson*, Gary N. Haskins, Sonja M. Eisfeld-Pierantonio, Theofilos Sidiropoulos, Connor C. G. Bamford

    *Corresponding author:

    ABSTRACT: Photographs collected during a 23-year photo-identification study in the Moray Firth were examined to assess the prevalence, type and severity of vertebral deformations present in bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus calves. Fifteen cases of presenting spinal anomalies (scoliosis, kyphosis, lordosis and combinations thereof) of variable severity were identified in 7.4% of all known calves from the population. 13 of the 15 anomalies were either manifest from birth or acquired from an early age, as ascertained from longitudinal sightings histories of their mothers. Most afflicted calves died during early development or shortly after maternal separation. However, three survived to adulthood and persist in the population to date, in addition to two dependent infants whose fate remains to be established. At 15+ years of age, the oldest surviving individual was remarkably one of the most severe cases identified, highlighting the ability of these delphinids for adaptation to such gross structural deformities. The aetiology of the observed conditions could be attributed to a range of causative factors that may have implications for the well-being and health of this North Sea coastal dolphin population which merits further investigation.