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Accessory spleen in cetaceans and its relevance as a secondary lymphoid organ

Abstract

The objective was to determine the prevalence of accessory spleens in cetaceans stranded on the north and northeastern coasts of Brazil and to describe their macroscopic and microscopic characteristics, thereby providing insights into the contribution of these structures to the immune system of cetaceans. Sixty-three Odontocetes and Mysticetes (total of 14 species), male and female, ranging from calves to adults, stranded from 2009 to 2013 on the Brazilian north and northeastern coasts, were evaluated. Accessory spleens were present in 38 animals (60.3 %), with 1–14 accessory spleens per animal. Their location varied among species, ranging from firmly adherent to the spleen, to the large curvature of the first stomach or both. The presence of these structures was apparently not related to age or sex. However, there was a higher prevalence in animals with a greater body size and known to make deeper dives. Both primary and accessory spleens had similar macroscopic morphology with no demarcation between cortex and medulla. Both primary and accessory spleens had similar histological characteristics. Furthermore, it was noteworthy that germinal centers became more discrete and reduced in number with increasing age. In conclusion, we inferred that accessory spleens may be an additional mechanism for adaptation to diving and that they have a complementary reservoir function and thus can be considered compensatory lymphoid organs to splenic activity.

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Acknowledgments

This study was funded by Fundação de Pesquisa do Estado de Sao Paulo—FAPESP (Process 2012/01964-0). We thank institutions Fundação Mamíferos Aquáticos—FMA, Associação de Pesquisa e Preservação de Ecossistemas Aquáticos—AQUASIS and Instituto de Desenvolvimento Sustentável Mamirauá—IDSM for providing samples that are used in this study. We greatly appreciate the assistance of Prof. John Kastelic in the correction of the English language in this Article. This paper employed data generated by Programa Regional de Monitoramento de Encalhes e Anormalidades na Área de Abrangência da Bacia Sergipe-Alagoas and carried out by Fundação Mamíferos Aquáticos and Petrobras, in partnership with Projeto Tamar/ICMBio, as a mitigating measure of the Federal Environmental Licensing conducted by the Brazilian Environmental Agency (IBAMA). Samples collected by IDSM’s Aquavert Project and AQUASIS’s Projeto Manatí were sponsored by Petrobras through its Petrobras Ambiental Program.

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Correspondence to Fernanda Menezes de Oliveira e Silva.

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Communicated by A. Schmidt-Rhaesa.

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e Silva, F.M.O., Carvalho, V.L., Guimarães, J.P. et al. Accessory spleen in cetaceans and its relevance as a secondary lymphoid organ. Zoomorphology 133, 343–350 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00435-014-0223-x

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Keywords

  • Spleen
  • Cetacea
  • Lymphoid system
  • Immune system