The prevalence of epidermal conditions in a small population of coastal bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Monterey Bay was evaluated between 2006 and 2008. Five different skin condition categories were considered, including Pox-Like Lesions, Discoloration, Orange Film, Polygon Lesions, and Miscellaneous Markings. Of 147 adults and 42 calves photographically examined, at least 90 and 71%, respectively, were affected by at least one or multiple conditions. Pox-Like Lesions were the most prevalent, affecting 80% of the population, including adults and calves. This condition warrants the most urgent investigation being possibly indicative of the widespread presence of poxvirus or a similar pathogen in the population. In view of the high number of individuals affected, standard monitoring of the health status of Monterey Bay bottlenose dolphins is considered imperative. Discoloration was strongly associated with Pox-Like lesions. Orange Films were likely an epifaunal infestation caused by diatoms, which have been documented in other cetacean species. Polygon Lesions, a newly described category, could be the result of infestation by barnacles of the genus Cryptolepas. Miscellaneous Markings were variable in appearance and may not have the same causative factor. Although none of the proposed etiologies can be confirmed without appropriate clinical tests, recognizing common visible characteristics of the conditions could aid in preliminary comparisons across populations and individuals.
AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment
Vol. 39 • No. 7
Vol. 39 • No. 7