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
- ship collision
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Contributors NC wrote the article, performed the postmortem examination of the animals, and contributed to the gross, histological, histochemical and immunohistological description and diagnosis of the cases. ES performed the postmortem examination of the animals, contributed to the gross, histological, histochemical and immunohistological description and diagnosis of the cases, and guided the first author during the drafting and publication process. CF-M, AEdlM, MA and AF performed the postmortem examination of the animals, and contributed to the gross and histological descriptions and diagnosis of the cases. PH contributed to the gross, histological, histochemical and immunohistological description and diagnosis of the cases and guided the first author during the drafting and publication process.
Funding This study is part of a PhD thesis at the Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC) supported by the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (MINECO) through a predoctoral grant for training of research personnel (Contrato Predoctoral para Formación de Personal Investigador, año 2016) with reference BES-2016-076907. Furthermore, part of this research work was supported through the national project titled Patología Embólica (Gaseosa/Grasa) en Cetáceos supported by the MINECO with reference CGL2015-71498-P, and through the project titled Cardiomiopatías de Estrés en Cetáceos supported by the Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidades, subsidised by the Cabildo of Gran Canaria, with reference CABILDO2018: CABILDO2018-04. Moreover, the Canary Islands Government and the Regional Government of Andalusia has funded and provided support to the stranding network.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article.
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