Bearded Seal Post Mortem Findings

Here are some pictures that describe postmortem findings from 2010 Subsistence Harvested  Bearded Seals.

Hearts from 3 of the 42 bearded seals examined had incomplete closure of the ductus arteriosus-one of the three had a probe patent ductus arteriosus.  2 of the 3 were seals estimated to be just over a year old.  The remaining seal was an adult.


These photos are from 2010BS5-later that evening I would find that the aortic side of the ductus arteriosus in 2010BS6 was still patent.  The aortic side of the ductus arteriosus in 2010BS35 was still open as well-this animal was an older adult.  I placed the ductus arteriosus from these 3 animals in formalin for further examination when I return to CSU.  The scientific literature states that closure of this important fetal structure can occur as early as 20 minutes after birth.  Platelets are thought to facilitate the closure process.  Does closure of this fetal structure happen later in the bearded seal?  What are the physiological consequences of delayed closure and can they be observed histologically?

2010BS20-Note the significant size disparity in the kidneys.  It is not uncommon to find the right kidney to be slightly larger than the left kidney, and to be more cranial to the left kidney.  In this seal, the right kidney is much smaller than the left kidney.  Possibly a congenital defect?

Bearded seal with gross lesions penetrating all 3 layers of the heart…

These should make for some interesting histopathology when I return to CSU.

I have read about 300 of the 800 slides that I have had made from seals that I collected tissues from during the 2008 and 2009 subsistence hunts.  Here is a summary of my findings:

1.     No histological evidence of endocrine disruption in any of the thyroid and adrenal glands examined.  The reproductive

organs also appear normal.

2.     There are no histological changes in the sections of kidney that suggest exposure to the Leptospires spp .

3.     The identification of what is believed to be a sarcocyst that has never been described in marine mammal literature.  Molecular

diagnostics are currently being performed by the molecular parasitology section at the National Institutes of Health to confirm whether or not this is the case.

4.     Evidence of acute exertional rhabdomyolysis-an important finding that may provide a means of demonstrating the negative effects of diminishing sea ice, meaning the seals are having to swim greater distances to find appropriate ice platforms for hauling out.

5.     Overall, these animals are healthy and in excellent body condition and the Inupiat eskimoes are not eating contaminant-laden seals!

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