Evaluation and comparison of the health status of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins from the Indian River Lagoon, Florida, and Charleston, South Carolina

John S. Reif Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523.
Division of Marine Mammal Research and Conservation, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University, 5600 US 1 North, Fort Pierce, FL 34946.

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Patricia A. Fair National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Ocean Service, Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research, 219 Ft Johnson Rd, Charleston, SC 29142.

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Jeffrey Adams National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Ocean Service, Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research, 219 Ft Johnson Rd, Charleston, SC 29142.

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Brian Joseph Living Exhibits Inc, 2339 Royal Crest Dr, Escondido, CA 92025.

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David S. Kilpatrick Division of Marine Mammal Research and Conservation, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University, 5600 US 1 North, Fort Pierce, FL 34946.

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Roberto Sanchez Dolphin Discovery, Blvd Kukulkkan, Plaza Quetzal Local 11, Quintana Roo, Cancun, Mexico.

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Juli D. Goldstein Division of Marine Mammal Research and Conservation, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University, 5600 US 1 North, Fort Pierce, FL 34946.

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Forrest I. Townsend Jr Bayside Hospital for Animals, 251 Racetrack Rd NE, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32547.

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Stephen D. McCulloch Division of Marine Mammal Research and Conservation, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University, 5600 US 1 North, Fort Pierce, FL 34946.

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Marilyn Mazzoil Division of Marine Mammal Research and Conservation, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University, 5600 US 1 North, Fort Pierce, FL 34946.

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Eric S. Zolman National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Ocean Service, Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research, 219 Ft Johnson Rd, Charleston, SC 29142.

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Larry J. Hansen National Marine Fisheries Service, 101 Pivers Island Rd, Beaufort, NC 28526.

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Gregory D. Bossart Division of Marine Mammal Research and Conservation, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University, 5600 US 1 North, Fort Pierce, FL 34946.

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Abstract

Objective—To conduct health assessments and compare outcomes in 2 populations of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins.

Design—Repeated cross-sectional study.

Animals—171 Atlantic bottlenose dolphins.

Procedures—During June and August of 2003 through 2005, 89 dolphins from the Indian River Lagoon (IRL), Florida, and 82 dolphins from estuarine waters near Charleston, SC, were evaluated. A panel of 5 marine mammal veterinarians classified dolphins as clinically normal, possibly diseased, or definitely diseased on the basis of results of physical and ultrasonographic examinations, hematologic and serum biochemical analyses, and cytologic and microbiologic evaluations of gastric contents and swab specimens.

Results—Prevalence of dolphins classified as definitely diseased did not differ significantly between the IRL (32%) and Charleston (20%) sites. Proportions of dolphins classified as possibly diseased also did not differ. Lobomycosis was diagnosed in 9 dolphins from the IRL but in none of the dolphins from Charleston. Proportions of dolphins with orogenital papillomas did not differ significantly between the IRL (12%) and Charleston (7%) sites. From 2003 through 2005, the proportion classified as definitely diseased tripled among dolphins from the Charleston site but did not increase significantly among dolphins from the IRL. Dolphins from the Charleston site were more likely to have leukocytosis, lymphocytosis, and low serum concentrations of total protein and total J-globulins than were dolphins from the IRL.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—High prevalences of diseased dolphins were identified at both sites; however, the host or environmental factors that contributed to the various abnormalities detected are unknown.

Abstract

Objective—To conduct health assessments and compare outcomes in 2 populations of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins.

Design—Repeated cross-sectional study.

Animals—171 Atlantic bottlenose dolphins.

Procedures—During June and August of 2003 through 2005, 89 dolphins from the Indian River Lagoon (IRL), Florida, and 82 dolphins from estuarine waters near Charleston, SC, were evaluated. A panel of 5 marine mammal veterinarians classified dolphins as clinically normal, possibly diseased, or definitely diseased on the basis of results of physical and ultrasonographic examinations, hematologic and serum biochemical analyses, and cytologic and microbiologic evaluations of gastric contents and swab specimens.

Results—Prevalence of dolphins classified as definitely diseased did not differ significantly between the IRL (32%) and Charleston (20%) sites. Proportions of dolphins classified as possibly diseased also did not differ. Lobomycosis was diagnosed in 9 dolphins from the IRL but in none of the dolphins from Charleston. Proportions of dolphins with orogenital papillomas did not differ significantly between the IRL (12%) and Charleston (7%) sites. From 2003 through 2005, the proportion classified as definitely diseased tripled among dolphins from the Charleston site but did not increase significantly among dolphins from the IRL. Dolphins from the Charleston site were more likely to have leukocytosis, lymphocytosis, and low serum concentrations of total protein and total J-globulins than were dolphins from the IRL.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—High prevalences of diseased dolphins were identified at both sites; however, the host or environmental factors that contributed to the various abnormalities detected are unknown.

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