Journal of Wildlife Diseases (1993)

DOI: 10.7589/0090-3558-29.1.109


In 1990, 74 dusky dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) and 10 Burmeister’s porpoises (Phocoena spinipinnis) were examined for the presence of hyperpigmented marks and pinhole lesions on the skin (tattoo lesions) at the fishing terminal of Pucusana, central Peru. Prevalences of tattoo lesions were 8.1% and 30% in the dolphins and porpoises, respectively. Intracytoplasmic poxviruses were demonstrated by transmission electron microscopy in ultrathin sections of three of eight samples of infected epidermis from both species. The reason for the negative results in others is unclear but may be related to stages of infection with low virus density or even incorrect classification of some lesions as genuine viral tattoos. An irregular arrangement of tubules on the outer viral membrane, similar to those in orthopoxviruses, was visible in negative contrast preparations for P. spinipinnis. This is the first record of poxvirus in porpoises (Phocoenidae) and also the first report for dusky dolphins, and generally for cetaceans of the southern hemisphere.