Fetal distress and in utero pneumonia in perinatal dolphins during the Northern Gulf of Mexico unusual mortality event

Kathleen M. Colegrove, Stephanie Venn-Watson, Jenny Litz, Michael J. Kinsel, Karen A. Terio, Erin Fougeres, Ruth Ewing, D. Ann Pabst, William A. McLellan, Stephen Raverty, Jeremiah Saliki, Spencer Fire, Gina Rappucci, Sabrina Bowen-Stevens, Lauren Noble, Alex Costidis, Michelle Barbieri, Cara Field, Suzanne Smith, Ruth H. CarmichaelConnie Chevis, Wendy Hatchett, Delphine Shannon, Mandy Tumlin, Gretchen Lovewell, Wayne McFee, Teresa K. Rowles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

An unusual mortality event (UME) involving primarily common bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus of all size classes stranding along coastal Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, USA, started in early 2010 and continued into 2014. During this northern Gulf of Mexico UME, a distinct cluster of perinatal dolphins (total body length <115 cm) stranded in Mississippi and Alabama during 2011. The proportion of annual dolphin strandings that were perinates between 2009 and 2013 were compared to baseline strandings (2000-2005). A case-reference study was conducted to compare demographics, histologic lesions, and Brucella sp. infection prevalence in 69 UME perinatal dolphins to findings from 26 reference perinates stranded in South Carolina and Florida outside of the UME area. Compared to reference perinates, UME perinates were more likely to have died in utero or very soon after birth (presence of atelectasis in 88 vs. 15%, p < 0.0001), have fetal distress (87 vs. 27%, p < 0.0001), and have pneumonia not associated with lungworm infection (65 vs. 19%, p = 0.0001). The percentage of perinates with Brucella sp. infections identified via lung PCR was higher among UME perinates stranding in Mississippi and Alabama compared to reference perinates (61 vs. 24%, p = 0.01), and multiple different Brucella omp genetic sequences were identified in UME perinates. These results support that from 2011 to 2013, during the northern Gulf of Mexico UME, bottlenose dolphins were particularly susceptible to late-term pregnancy failures and development of in utero infections including brucellosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalDiseases of Aquatic Organisms
Volume119
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 12 2016

Keywords

  • Bottlenose dolphin
  • Brucella
  • Fetal distress
  • Fetal loss
  • Oil spill
  • Pneumonia
  • Tursiops truncatus
  • Unusual mortality event

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science

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    Colegrove, K. M., Venn-Watson, S., Litz, J., Kinsel, M. J., Terio, K. A., Fougeres, E., Ewing, R., Pabst, D. A., McLellan, W. A., Raverty, S., Saliki, J., Fire, S., Rappucci, G., Bowen-Stevens, S., Noble, L., Costidis, A., Barbieri, M., Field, C., Smith, S., ... Rowles, T. K. (2016). Fetal distress and in utero pneumonia in perinatal dolphins during the Northern Gulf of Mexico unusual mortality event. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms, 119(1), 1-16. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao02969