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Stress cardiomyopathy in stranded cetaceans: a histological, histochemical and immunohistochemical study

Abstract

Background Free-living cetaceans are exposed to a wide variety of stressful situations, including live stranding and interaction with human beings (capture myopathy), vessel strikes, and fishing activities (bycatch), which affect their wellbeing and potentially lead to stress cardiomyopathy (SCMP).

Methods Here, the authors aimed to characterise SCMP of stranded cetaceans as an injury resulting from extreme stress responses, based on pathological analyses (histological, histochemical and immunohistochemical). Specifically, the authors examined heart samples from 67 cetaceans found ashore (48 live strandings, seven dead from ship collision and 12 dead from bycatch) on the coast of Spain, more specifically in the Canary Islands from 2000 to 2016 and Andalusia from 2011 to 2014.

Results The microscopic findings were characterised by vascular changes, acute or subacute cardiac degenerative necrotic lesions, interstitial myoglobin globules, and infiltration of inflammatory cells. Immunohistochemically, cardiac troponin I, cardiac troponin C and myoglobin were depleted, along with fibrinogen being expressed in the degenerated/necrotic cardiomyocytes. A perivascular pattern was also identified and described in the damaged cardiomyocytes.

Conclusions This study advances current knowledge about the pathologies of cetaceans and their implications on conserving this group of animals by reducing mortality and enhancing their treatment and subsequent rehabilitation to the marine environment.

  • stress cardiomyopathy
  • cetaceans
  • live-stranding
  • ship collision
  • bycatch
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