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Rev Environ Contam Toxicol. 2014;228:1-29. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-01619-1_1.

Guiana dolphins (Sotalia guianensis) as marine ecosystem sentinels: ecotoxicology and emerging diseases.

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PPG em Saúde Pública e Meio Ambiente, Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública/FIOCRUZ & Grupo de Estudos de Mamíferos Marinhos da Região dos Lagos - GEMM-Lagos, Rua Leopoldo Bulhões, 1.480 - 6° andar, sala 611, Manguinhos, 21041-210, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil,


Guiana dolphins (Sotalia guianensis) are small cetaceans that inhabit coastal regions down to a 50 m depth. As a coastally distributed species, they are exposed to a variety of human-induced risks that include passive fishing nets, persistent environmental pollution, and emerging diseases. As a top predatorS. guianensis occupies an important ecological niche in marine ecosystems. However, this niche also exposes this dolphin to extensive biomagnification of marine contaminants that may accumulate and be stored throughout their life of about 30 years.In this paper, we have compiled available data on the Guiana dolphin as regards its exposure to chemical pollutants, pathogenic microbes, infectious diseases, and injuries caused by interactions with passive fishing gears. Our analysis of the data shows that Guiana dolphins are particularly sensitive to environmental changes.Although the major mortal threat to dolphins results from contact with fishing other human-related activities in coastal zones also pose risks and need more attention.Such human-related risks include the presence of persistent toxicants in the marine environment, such as PCBs and PBDEs. Residues of these chemicals have been detected in Guiana dolphin's tissues at similar or higher levels that exist in cetaceans from other known polluted areas. Another risk encountered by this species is the non lethal injuries caused by fishing gear. Several incidents of this sort have occurred along the Brazilian coast with this species. When injuries are produced by interaction with fishing gear, the dorsal fin is the part of the dolphin anatomy that is more affected, commonly causing severe laceration or even total loss.The Guiana dolphins also face risks from infectious diseases. The major ones thus far identified include giardiasis, lobomycosis, toxoplasmosis, skin and skeletal lesions. Many bacterial pathogens from the family Aeromonadaceae and Vibrionaceae have been isolated from Guiana dolphins. Several helminth species have also been observed to affectS. guianensis. These results suggest a vulnerability of this species to environmental disturbances. Moreover, there is some evidence that the effects of some infectious diseases may be enhanced from stress caused by habitat impairment. For example, certain diseases and pathogenic organisms in S.guianensis may be associated with the high levels of endocrine-disruptor contaminants(e.g., PCBs; DDTs; PBDEs) that have been detected in marine waters.Although the data available on S. guianensis is growing, most of the work has been focused on a small portion of the species total area of distribution. Most studies,to date, have been carried out in the Southern region of the distribution, and in north eastern Brazil. Few studies have been conducted in the northern region of the South America or in Central America. Therefore, future studies should be conducted that address the heterogeneity of this species total distribution.The biology and ecology of the Guiana dolphin renders this species potentially useful as a sentinel species for detecting environmental changes, such as chemical and biological pollution. Research about this dolphin is encouraged as a way to assess what coastal environmental changes have occurred and to continue evaluating the health status of this vulnerable species in a changing environment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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