[MARMAM] Application of McMaster's technique in live blue whale.

Lavinia Flores Cascante lfloresc0902 at ipn.mx
Wed Oct 10 12:08:03 PDT 2012

In the lab of cetacean ecology in CICIMAR (La Paz, Mexico) we have 
lately published a short communications about quantitative 
parasitology in blue whales…

Flores-Cascante, L. and Gendron, D. 2012. Application of McMaster's 
technique in live blue whale. Veterinary Record;171:9 220 
doi:10.1136/vr.100749 (dgendron at ipn.mx)

Due to field sampling constrictions, studies on the intestinal 
parasite load in free ranging cetaceans is lacking. Reports on 
cetacean parasites have generally been obtained from stranded and 
harvested animals and thus cannot be considered representative of the 
“normal’ population. In the case of the blue whale, Balaenoptera 
musculus few descriptions of the parasitic fauna exist and the 
information is qualitative. Standardized methodologies are essential 
to evaluate the baseline data on the population's parasite load, as 
well as on the relationship between parasite and host, and to optimize 
long-term study. Here we report the use and optimization of the 
McMaster technique for the quantization of parasite eggs in feces of 
terrestrial mammals as applied to the blue whale. We collected 30 
feces samples of blue whales during our 2009-2011 winter-spring 
fieldwork in the southwestern Gulf of California, Mexico. Subsample of 
feces were collected opportunistically at the sea surface and were 
preserved in formalin at 5 % and dehydrated for 24hrs. The flotation 
solution, Zinc Sulfate was chosen over the modified Sheather’s 
Solution since the transparency allowed better observation of the 
eggs. The effective sample size was estimated using 0.3, 0.5 and 1gr 
of dried feces. No significant difference in the count of egg 
parasites per gram of dry feces (EPG) was found between sample sizes 
(p> 0.05), and the parasite load was estimated from 0.5 gram at the 
Helminth level. The average intensity was 356 EPG ranging from 100 to 
1250 and corresponded to 19 different blue whale individuals. Three 
individuals were re-sampled more than once during one season and EPG 
counts were constant (p>0.05). Adult acanthocephalans of the genus 
Bolbosoma sp were found in the samples, a genus previously reported 
for the Northeastern Pacific blue whales. The use of the McMaster 
technique to assess parasite load in blue whales offers an important 
new parameter that can be easily monitored.

Regards, Lavinia.


Biol. Mar. Lavinia F. Cascante
Estudiante de M.C. en Manejo de Recursos Marinos
Laboratorio de Cetáceos y Quelonios
La Paz, BCS. México

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