Skin biopsies were collected from free-ranging harbor seals (Phoca vitulina richardii) from central California (n = 53). Microscopic examination of hematoxylin and eosin-stained tissue sections revealed the presence of tightly coiled nematode larvae within the ostia of numerous hair follicles of four seals. Parasites were characterized by paired lateral alae, platymyarian musculature, and an indistinct, uninucleate digestive tract. Mild chronic superficial dermatitis and perifolliculitis were evident microscopically in association with the intrafollicular parasites. Histomorphologic features of the larvae and their presence within hair follicles are consistent with previous reports of the facultative nematode parasite Pelodera strongyloides. This is the first published report of P. strongyloides infection in any marine mammal. This parasite may be acquired by marine mammals through close contact with soil or decaying organic material and should be considered as a potential differential diagnosis for dermatitis in marine mammals that use terrestrial resting sites.
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