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Gastrointestinal parasites of free-living Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) in the Northern Red Sea, Egypt

Abstract

The present study represents the first report on the gastrointestinal parasite fauna infecting the free-living and alive Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) inhabiting waters of the Red Sea at Hurghada, Egypt. A total of 94 individual faecal samples of the examined bottlenose dolphins were collected during several diving expeditions within their natural habitats. Using classical parasitological techniques, such as sodium acetate acetic acid formalin method, carbol fuchsin-stained faecal smears, coproantigen ELISA, PCR and macroscopical analyses, the study revealed infections with 21 different parasite species belonging to protozoans and metazoans with some of them bearing zoonotic and/or pathogenic potential. Four identified parasite species are potential zoonotic species (Giardia spp., Cryptosporidium spp., Diphyllobothrium spp., Ascaridida indet.); three of them are known to have high pathogenic potential for the examined dolphin species (Nasitrema attenuata, Zalophotrema spp. and Pholeter gastrophilus) and some appear to be directly associated with stranding events. In detail, the study indicates stages of ten protozoan species (Giardia spp., Sarcocystis spp., Isospora (like) spp., Cystoisospora (like) spp., Ciliata indet. I and II, Holotricha indet., Dinoflagellata indet., Hexamita (like) spp., Cryptosporidium spp.), seven trematode species (N. attenuata, Nasitrema spp. I and II, Zalophotrema curilensis, Zalophotrema spp., Pholeter gastrophilus, Trematoda indet.), one cestode species (Diphyllobothrium spp.), two nematode species (Ascaridida indet, Capillaria spp.) and one crustacean parasite (Cymothoidae indet.). Additionally, we molecularly identified adult worms of Anisakis typica in individual dolphin vomitus samples by molecular analyses. A. typica is a common parasite of various dolphin species of warmer temperate and tropical waters and has not been attributed as food-borne parasitic zoonoses so far. Overall, these parasitological findings include ten new host records for T. aduncus (i.e. in case of Giardia spp., Sarcocystis spp., Cryptosporidium spp., Nasitrema spp., Zalophotrema spp., Pholeter gastrophilus, A. typica, Capillaria spp., Diphyllobothrium spp. and Cymothoidae indet.). The present results may be used as a baseline for future monitoring studies targeting the impact of climate or other environmental changes on dolphin’s health conditions and therefore contribute to the protection of these fascinating marine mammals.

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Acknowledgments

We greatly acknowledge Michael Stadermann and his team at the SWDF Diving Center (Hurghada, Egypt), the Dolphin Watch Alliance (Gossau, Switzerland) for providing study samples, boat equipment and field support and Marquardt Media Production on behalf of the television company ZDF/Arte. We also thank Natalia Pryanishnikova for providing underwater photographs and Dr. Kernt Köhler (Institute for Veterinary Pathology, Giessen, Germany) for his support in taking pictures of adult A. typica and Cymothoidae indet. specimens.

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Kleinertz, S., Hermosilla, C., Ziltener, A. et al. Gastrointestinal parasites of free-living Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) in the Northern Red Sea, Egypt. Parasitol Res 113, 1405–1415 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00436-014-3781-4

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Keywords

  • Marine Mammal
  • Bottlenose Dolphin
  • Common Dolphin
  • Metazoan Parasite
  • Cetacean Species