Marine Mammal Parasite of the Month – Case February 2012

Our second case is another marine mammal classic.  I was surprised when I first started looking at these parasites how much I had heard about them and how little I knew about their biology, pathology, and natural history.   Speaking of history…. A common dolphin was found dead on beach with no external injuries.  On necropsy, the ptergoid sinus was filled with these parasites.

Here is a closer look.  The black marks are 1mm each.

Further identification requires examination of internal structures, which is traditionally accomplished by clearing, staining, dehydrating, and mounting.  As I am more veterinarian then parasitologist, I opted to turn the specimens into biopsy samples and had them processed into standard H&E 5um slides.  Here is a full worm spread out on a composite digital micrograph.

What is the parasite?

How does it relate to the stranding?

How would you diagnose the infection with a dolphin in rehabilitation?

enjoy . . .