The successful 6 mo rehabilitation of a stranded juvenile pygmy sperm whale Kogia breviceps afforded the opportunity to study the poorly known protozoan fauna of the upper respiratory tract of cetaceans. Mucus samples were collected by holding either a petri dish or glass slides over the blowhole for 3 to 5 exhalations; preparations were examined as wet mounts, and then stained with Wrights-Giemsa or Gram stain. Blood smears were stained with Wrights-Giemsa. Unidentified spindle-shaped and unidentified broad ciliates, reported from the blowhole of the pygmy sperm whale for the first time, were seen only initially, while yeast-like organisms and bacteria were seen intermittently. Epithelial cells and white blood cells were often present in the blowhole mucus, but red blood cells were never seen. A novel trypanoplasm-like bodonid kinetoplastid biflagellate (Order Kinetoplastida) was commonly encountered in the blowhole mucus, but never in the blood. Both mature flagellates and those undergoing longitudinal binary fission were present. The elongate flagellate had a long whiplash anterior flagellum; the recurrent flagellum was attached along at least two-thirds of the body length, forming a prominent undulating membrane, and the trailing portion was short. The kinetoplast was irregularly fragmented. The flagellates were either free-swimming, or attached to host material via the free portion of the posterior flagellum. The prominent undulating membrane was characteristic of Trypanoplasma, while the fragmented kinetoplast was characteristic of some species of Cryptobia. For the novel bodonid kinetoplastid, with its unique combination of morphological features (prominent undulating membrane and fragmented kinetoplast), we propose the creation of a new genus Jarrellia. We believe this to be the first published description of a flagellate from a marine mammal, and among the first reports of a trypanoplasm-like flagellate from a warm-blooded host. We expect that a diversity of flagellates and ciliates are commonly present in the blowhole of cetaceans. Future studies on the identity of the protozoans and the health of their cetacean hosts, which are readily studied in captivity, are necessary to establish their status as commensals or parasites.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science