Scanning Microscopy


Samples of common skin abnormalities from 23 subsistence-harvested bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) were examined. Most lesions fell into three broad classes: shallow lacerations, circular depressions, and epidermal sloughing. Both circular depression lesions and epidermal sloughing lesions may be divided into more than one subgroup based on morphological criteria. Examination of each of the subgroups using light and scanning electron microscopy suggests relationships among the subgroups of a class. These proposed relationships are discussed, as are some possible etiologies. Scanning electron microscopy reveals abundant bacteria and diatoms present in association with each lesion class but no evidence of a particular association characteristic of a lesion class. The microflora were especially abundant wherever the stratum spinosum was exposed at the skin surface.

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