Changes in epizoic crustacean infestations during cetacean die-offs: the mass mortality of Mediterranean striped dolphins Stenella coeruleoalba revisited.
In the summer and autumn of 1990, a cetacean morbillivirus caused a massive epizootic mortality of striped dolphins Stenella coeruleoalba in the western Mediterranean. Previous circumstantial evidence suggested that the disease could also have increased host susceptibility to infestations with epizoic crustaceans. In this study we provide strong evidence supporting this hypothesis. We examined striped dolphins stranded along the Mediterranean central coast of Spain from 1981 to 2004 (n = 136), and recorded data on prevalence, intensity of infestation, size and reproductive status of 2 sessile crustacean species specific to cetaceans, the phoront cirriped Xenobalanus globicipitis and the mesoparasitic copepod Pennella balaenopterae. Compared with the pre-epizootic (n = 12) and post-epizootic (n = 62) dolphin samples, the following changes were noted in the dolphins stranded during the epizootic (n = 62): (1) the prevalence of both X. globicipitis and P. balaenopterae increased; (2) the intensity of X. globicipitis and P. balaenopterae infestations did not increase; indeed, it was even slightly lower than in the other periods, as was their degree of aggregation; (3) individuals of both species were smaller, and a higher proportion were non-gravid; (4) the 2 species tended to co-occur in the same dolphins, but their numbers did not co-vary. These patterns strongly suggest that, during the epizootic, there was a short-term increase in the probability of infestation of these 2 species because of the sudden rise in the population of susceptible hosts; the growth of the new recruits was limited by the early death of dolphins. The high susceptibility was likely related to the immunosuppressive effects of viral infection and the abnormally heavy loads of polychlorinated biphenyls found in sick dolphins; the level of inbreeding was also higher in dolphins from the 'epizootic' sample. Epizoic crustaceans could be suitable indicators of health in cetacean populations. (+info)
Dynamics of the aerial maneuvers of spinner dolphins.
The spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris) performs spectacular leaps from the water while rotating around its longitudinal axis up to seven times. Although twisting of the body while airborne has been proposed as the mechanism to effect the spin, the morphology of the dolphin precludes this mechanism for the spinning maneuver. A mathematical model was developed that demonstrates that angular momentum to induce the spin was generated underwater, prior to the leap. Subsurface corkscrewing motion represents a balance between drive torques generated by the flukes and by hydrodynamic forces at the pectoral fins, and resistive torques, induced by the drag forces acting on the rotating control surfaces. As the dolphin leaps clear of the water, this balance is no longer maintained as the density of the air is essentially negligible, and a net drive torque remains, which permits the dolphin's rotation speed to increase by as much as a factor of three for a typical specimen. The model indicates that the high rotation rates and orientation of the dolphin's body during re-entry into the water could produce enough force to hydrodynamically dislodge unwanted remoras. (+info)
Selection of reference genes for quantitative RT-PCR studies in striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba) skin biopsies.
BACKGROUND: Odontocete cetaceans occupy the top position of the marine food-web and are particularly sensitive to the bioaccumulation of lipophilic contaminants. The effects of environmental pollution on these species are highly debated and various ecotoxicological studies have addressed the impact of xenobiotic compounds on marine mammals, raising conservational concerns. Despite its sensitivity, quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR) has never been used to quantify gene induction caused by exposure of cetaceans to contaminants. A limitation for the application of qRT-PCR is the need for appropriate reference genes which allow the correct quantification of gene expression. A systematic evaluation of potential reference genes in cetacean skin biopsies is presented, in order to validate future qRT-PCR studies aiming at using the expression of selected genes as non-lethal biomarkers. RESULTS: Ten commonly used housekeeping genes (HKGs) were partially sequenced in the striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba) and, for each gene, PCR primer pairs were specifically designed and tested in qRT-PCR assays. The expression of these potential control genes was examined in 30 striped dolphin skin biopsy samples, obtained from specimens sampled in the north-western Mediterranean Sea. The stability of selected control genes was determined using three different specific VBA applets (geNorm, NormFinder and BestKeeper) which produce highly comparable results. Glyceraldehyde-3P-dehydrogenase (GAPDH) and tyrosine 3-monooxygenase (YWHAZ) always rank as the two most stably expressed HKGs according to the analysis with geNorm and Normfinder, and are defined as optimal control genes by BestKepeer. Ribosomal protein L4 (RPL4) and S18 (RPS18) also exhibit a remarkable stability of their expression levels. On the other hand, transferrin receptor (TFRC), phosphoglycerate kinase 1 (PGK1), hypoxanthine ribosyltransferase (HPRT1) and beta-2-microglobin (B2M) show variable expression among the studied samples and appear as less suitable reference genes for data normalization. CONCLUSION: In this work, we have provided essential background information for the selection of control genes in qRT-PCR studies of cetacean skin biopsies, as a molecular technique to investigate ecotoxicological hazard in marine mammals. Of 10 HKGs tested, those encoding for YWHAZ and GAPDH appear as the most reliable control genes for the normalization of qRT-PCR data in the analysis of striped dolphin skin biopsies. Potentially useful reference genes are also those encoding for ribosomal proteins L4 and S18. (+info)
A morphological and 13C NMR study of the extramandibular fat bodies of the striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba).
The molecular and histological structure of the fat bodies covering externally the posterolateral region of the jaw of the striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba) was investigated by means of morphological and nuclear magnetic resonance techniques. The analyses of samples belonging to adult and juvenile individuals were performed with the aim of seeking the presence of age-related differences. In our study, the level of isovalerate (iso5:0) in the extramandibular fat of the juvenile individuals is comparable with those of the adult counterparts; conversely, longer isobranched fatty acids were detected in lower quantities in the juveniles together with a higher degree of unsaturation. The morphologic analyses revealed that, in both adults and juveniles, this fatty tissue is similar to univacuolar adipose tissue. However, in the juveniles, a muscular component was present, whereas only in adult subjects, enlarged and irregularly shaped cavities may be seen within the adipose tissue. These cavities, structurally organized as veins, may regulate blood flow in response to changing water temperature and stabilize thermal gradient within the jaw lipids. These data suggest that the molecular components and the histological organization can indicate a maturation of the organ with age that probably may reflect different sound reception properties. (+info)