Acta Parasitologica

, Volume 64, Issue 3, pp 625–637 | Cite as

Helminth Load in Feces of Free-Ranging Blue and Fin Whales from the Gulf of California

  • Lavinia Flores-Cascante
  • Jaime Gómez-Gutiérrez
  • María del Carmen Gómez del Prado-Rosas
  • Diane GendronEmail author
Original Paper



This is the first worldwide systematic and quantitative study to count and identify helminth parasites from 100 blue and 44 fin whale fecal samples collected in the Gulf of California during winter (1993–2014).


Blue and fin whale feces had similar prevalence of adult acanthocephalans (Bolbosoma sp.) in feces (18.2% and 14.6%, respectively), but blue whales had significantly higher helminth egg prevalence in feces (100%) and mean intensity (443 ± 318 eggs/g) compared to fin whales (61%, 252 ± 327 eggs/g). Diphyllobothrium sp. eggs were identified in blue whale feces and Diphyllobothridae, Ogmogaster sp. and Crassicauda sp. eggs were identified in fin whale feces. We tested the hypothesis that egg intensity in blue whale’s feces varies as a function of age class, reproductive status, sex, preservation and sampling years using a Generalized Linear Model. This model explained 61% of the variance in the helminth egg intensity, but it was not significant. Eighteen blue whale individuals were resampled over time without significant difference between consecutive samples.


Thus, all individual blue whales that migrate to the Gulf of California during winter are permanently parasitized with helminths, while the resident fin whales showed lower prevalence and intensity. This helminth load difference is likely due to their different diets duringsummer–fall, when blue whales feed on other krill species in the California Current System and fin whales shift to school fish prey types in the Gulf of California.


Balaenoptera musculus Balaenoptera physalus McMaster’s technique Parasitism Eggs Prevalence intensity Mexico 



We thank students from the Ecology Cetaceans Laboratory at CICIMAR-IPN and Manuel Zamarrón-Nuñez for their professional assistance during the multi-annual fieldwork. Sampling was conducted under our annual research permit (2001–2016) issued by the Dirección General de Vida Silvestre, Secretaria del Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, Mexico. The first author thanks CONACyT and PIFI-IPN (currently named BEIFI-IPN) for scholarships awarded during her M.Sc. thesis. This research was funded by the Instituto Politécnico Nacional (IPN, multiple SIP projects carried out between 1996–2016, and SIP 2017014, 20180084), CONACyT (Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología) research Projects 2012-178615-C01, 2016-284201-01, PROCER funds from CONANP, Rufford Small Grant for Nature Conservation 2013 and a student Grant Granted to L.F.C. by Sociedad Mexicana de Mastozoología Marina (SOMEMMA). J.G.G. and D.G. are COFAA-IPN, EDI-IPN, and SNI fellows.


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Copyright information

© Witold Stefański Institute of Parasitology, Polish Academy of Sciences 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lavinia Flores-Cascante
    • 1
    • 3
  • Jaime Gómez-Gutiérrez
    • 1
  • María del Carmen Gómez del Prado-Rosas
    • 2
  • Diane Gendron
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Instituto Politécnico NacionalCentro Interdisciplinario de Ciencias MarinasLa PazMexico
  2. 2.Departamento Académico de Biología MarinaUniversidad Autónoma de Baja California SurLa PazMexico
  3. 3.Ingeniería en BiotecnologíaUniversidad Abierta y a Distancia de MéxicoMexico CityMexico

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