Prevalence and pathology of lungworm infection in bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus from southwest Florida

D. A. Fauquier, M. J. Kinsel, M. D. Dailey, G. E. Sutton, M. K. Stolen, R. S. Wells, F. M.D. Gulland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Parasitism of the respiratory system is a relatively common finding in stranded cetaceans; however, no systematic investigations regarding the severity, distribution, and clinical consequences of these infections in bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus have been conducted previously. The present study determined the prevalence of lungworm infections in dead stranded (n = 22) and live bottlenose dolphins (n = 44) from southwestern Florida, USA, during the period from 2003 to 2005. Dead stranded bottlenose dolphins were necropsied and lungs were examined visually, by palpation, and histologically for lesions consistent with verminous pneumonia. When present, nematodes were counted, measured, and identified to species based upon their morphology. Dolphin feces and blowhole swabs were collected and examined for nematode larvae. Lungworm prevalence was 77% in dead animals (n = 22). The lesions in most cases were mild, chronic, and not the primary cause of death. Only 13% of dead animals examined had patent infections, with larvae present in blowhole and fecal cytology, and only 18% of animals had intact worms present at necropsy, with a geometric mean intensity of infection of 22.6 worms animal-1. Intact worms were identified as either Halocercus lagenorhynchi or Skrjabinalius cryptocephalus. The highest prevalence of active infections was found in neonates and calves, including 1 stillborn calf. For free-ranging animals, all blowhole swabs (n = 44) were negative, and fecal cytology (n = 22) showed a 3% prevalence of patent infection. Findings from the present study support the theory that bottlenose dolphins can be infected transplacentally by lungworms. The impact that such infections may have on neonatal survival is unknown; however, these infections could increase neonatal mortality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)85-90
Number of pages6
JournalDiseases of Aquatic Organisms
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2010


  • Bottlenose dolphin
  • Florida
  • Lungworm
  • Nematode
  • Transplacental infection
  • Tursiops truncatus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science


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