Skin disease occurs frequently in many cetacean species across the globe; methods to categorize lesions have relied on photo-identification (photo-id), stranding, and by-catch data. The current study used photo-id data from four sampling months during 2009 to estimate skin lesion prevalence and type occurring on bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) from three sites along the southeast United States coast [Sarasota Bay, FL (SSB); near Brunswick and Sapelo Island, GA (BSG); and near Charleston, SC (CHS)]. The prevalence of lesions was highest among BSG dolphins (P = 0.587) and lowest in SSB (P = 0.380), and the overall prevalence was significantly different among all sites (p<0.0167). Logistic regression modeling revealed a significant reduction in the odds of lesion occurrence for increasing water temperatures (OR = 0.92; 95%CI:0.906-0.938) and a significantly increased odds of lesion occurrence for BSG dolphins (OR = 1.39; 95%CI:1.203-1.614). Approximately one-third of the lesioned dolphins from each site presented with multiple types, and population differences in lesion type occurrence were observed (p<0.05). Lesions on stranded dolphins were sampled to determine the etiology of different lesion types, which included three visually distinct samples positive for herpesvirus. Although generally considered non-fatal, skin disease may be indicative of animal health or exposure to anthropogenic or environmental threats, and photo-id data provide an efficient and cost-effective approach to document the occurrence of skin lesions in free-ranging populations.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)