Comparative histopathology of lungs from by-caught Atlantic white-sided dolphins
During 1993 and 1994, carcasses of by-caught
dolphins and porpoises were brought ashore by the
Dutch fishing fleet for scientific studies. The lungs
of 44 Atlantic white-sided dolphins (
Leucopleurus
acutus
), 2 common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) and
4 harbour porpoises (
Phocoena phocoena) were
examined histologically and results were compared
with findings from drowning and asphyxia of other
mammals and humans. The lungs of all dolphins
and porpoises showed severe oedema within the
alveolar spaces, rupture of alveolar walls and
myosphincters of the bronchioli, combined with
intraalveolar haemorrhages. Our investigations
were supplemented with Gomori silver stain to
demonstrate the fibre structure of the lungs. In all
cases, the alveolar walls showed slight to maximal
distension, with stretching of the capillaries and
distinct fibre ruptures. Using the criteria of Reh
(1969), who classified four stages of distension of
the reticulum fibres in human lungs of drowned, we
found the histological changes of the reticulum fibre
structure in the dolphin lungs to be equivalent to
stages two and three. Hence, our findings for
known by-caught dolphins and porpoises coincided
with the description of ‘atypical drowning lung’ in
humans and other terrestrial mammals.

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