Polar Biology (2013)

DOI: 10.1007/s00300-013-1433-2


Knowledge about parasitism in harbour porpoises and their health status around Greenland is scarce. This study provides knowledge about the poorly studied cetacean in its rapidly changing environment. Parasites and pathological findings in 20 harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) hunted in waters around West Greenland are presented. Carcasses were dissected, and parasitological, histological and bacteriological investigations were carried out. Protozoa (Sarcocystis sp.), Nematoda (Halocercus invaginatus, Stenurus minor, Anisakis simplex sensu lato (s.l.), Crassicauda sp.), Trematoda (Campula oblonga) and Cestoda (Phyllobothrium delphini, Monorygma grimaldii) were found. Parasitic infection of the peribullar cavity and lung with pseudaliid nematodes was found in most animals. Sixty per cent of the porpoises were infected with stomach worms, and trematodes were present in liver and pancreas of 90 and 30 % of the porpoises, respectively. Crassicauda sp. was isolated from perimuscular fascia in 45 % of the animals. This is the first record of tetraphyllidean merocercoids in harbour porpoises. M. grimaldii and P. delphini were found in blubber layer of 15 % and abdominal cavity of 50 % of the porpoises. Bronchopneumonia, gastritis, cholangitis, pancreatitis and panniculitis were almost exclusively associated with parasitic infection and usually mild. Compared with a previous study of Greenlandic porpoises from 1995, a significant increase in severity of parasitic infections and the emergence of new parasite species were observed, most likely associated with changes in diet, influenced by increasing sea temperatures and receding ice cover.