Congenital disorders in harbour (Phoca vitulina) and grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) admitted into rehabilitation from the Dutch Wadden sea
Congenital disorders are functional or structural defects that are present at birth. Monitoring of birth defects in wildlife can provide conservationists with information about the status of that population and can help with the detection of emerging teratogens. In marine mammals, there are few reports on congenital abnormalities, which are mostly found during postmortem examinations.
Harbour (Phoca vitulina) and grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) populations of the Dutch Wadden sea are stable and considered healthy. The current study summarizes information on sporadically appearing congenital or potentially congenital abnormalities in harbour and grey seals between 2014 and 2022. All animals were admitted into rehabilitation at Sealcentre, Pieterburen, in The Netherlands. We focused on the diagnostic methods and outcomes of each individual. The diagnoses were based on physical examination, clinical symptoms, and diagnostic imaging. These cases included melanism, albinism, microphthalmia, esophageal stenosis, impaired swallowing reflex, vestibular disease, dwarfism, hiatal hernia, cleft lip, arthrogryposis, and megaesophagus. During the study period, a total of 2739 seals were admitted into rehabilitation. The prevalence of congenital disease in our study was 0.62%.
Gut microbiome of stranded harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) admitted for rehabilitation.
In the Netherlands, the Sealcentre Pieterburen rehabilitates an average of 250 grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) and harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) per year. Being held in temporal captivity for rehabilitation might have an effect on the seals microbiome, and our study aimed to understand this effect in the gut microbiome of stranded harbour seals and the main factors contributing to it. We investigated the distal gut microbiome of two large cohorts (pups and weaners) of stranded harbour seals that were admitted for rehabilitation at the Sealcentre. The gut microbiome of young harbour seals stranded in the Netherlands is composed of Proteobacteria, Firmicutes, Bacteroidota, Fusobacteriota, Campylobacterota, and Actinobacteriota, and corresponds with the main core phyla described for this species in other parts of the world. The alpha diversity (richness and Shannon diversity) of the pup’s microbiome increased significantly during rehabilitation, while there were no significant changes in the weaners. Beta diversity of both pups’ and weaners’ gut microbiome was different before and after rehabilitation, with age and sex as main factors. We conclude that there was an important change in the microbiome of stranded harbour seals that were admitted to the Sealcentre.
Ana Rubio-Garcia1*, Aldert L. Zomer2 , Ruoshui Guo2, John W.A. Rossen3,4,5, Jan H. van Zeijl6, Jaap A. Wagenaar 2,7 , and Roosmarijn E.C. Luiken 2
1. Veterinary and Research Department, Sealcentre Pieterburen, Pieterburen, The Netherlands
2. Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, Utrecht University Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht, The Netherlands
3. Department of Medical Microbiology and Infection Prevention, University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
4. Department of Pathology, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.
5. Laboratory of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Disease, Isala hospital, Zwolle, The Netherlands.
6. Department of Medical Microbiology Friesland and Noordoostpolder, Certe, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands
7. Wageningen Bioveterinary Research, Lelystad, The Netherlands