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J Zoo Wildl Med. 2011 Mar;42(1):98-104.

Vitamin A deficiency and hepatic retinol levels in sea otters, Enhydra lutris.

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SeaWorld San Diego, 500 SeaWorld Drive, San Diego, California 92109, USA.


Vitamin A deficiency has rarely been reported in captive or free-ranging wildlife species. Necropsy findings in two captively housed southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) included irregular thickening of the calvaria characterized by diffuse hyperostoses on the internal surface. One animal also had moderate squamous metaplasia of the seromucinous glands of the nose. There was no measurable retinol in the liver of either sea otter. For comparison, hepatic retinol concentration was determined for 23 deceased free-ranging southern and northern (Enhydra lutris kenyoni) sea otters from California and Alaska. Free-ranging otters were found to have similar hepatic retinol concentrations (316 +/- 245 mg/kg wet weight) regardless of their location and subspecies. All of these values were significantly higher than the levels in the affected animals. Consumption of a diet with very low vitamin A concentrations and noncompliance in daily supplementation are hypothesized as the causes of vitamin A deficiency in these two sea otters.

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