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J Submicrosc Cytol Pathol. 1996 Apr;28(2):277-86.

Epidermal ultrastructure of the southern right whale calf (Eubalaena australis).

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Department of Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology, Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, Blacksburg 24061, USA.


An ultrastructural analysis by transmission and scanning electron microscopy was carried out on normal epidermis of six southern right whale (Eubalaena australis) calves which stranded over a period of several months at Peninsula Valdes, Argentina. This was undertaken to 1) provide the first normal skin ultrastructural data on this highly endangered species which is known to display skin pathology in some instances, and 2) to elucidate further the integumentary specializations which have developed in diving marine mammals. Southern right whale lipokeratinocytes demonstrated parakeratosis and numerous intracellular lipid bodies, keratin and melanosomes, as reported for other cetacean species, but showed several unique ultrastructural features as well. These included a high prevalence of intranuclear inclusion bodies resembling small fragments of cytoplasmic keratin, and close structural relationship between cytoplasmic lipid droplets and the nucleus. The subcellular morphology supported the concept of possible nuclear import of cytoplasmic keratin and lipid metabolites through enlargements of the nuclear pore complex or other disruptions of the nuclear envelope. The light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy also revealed an irregular contour of the lipokeratinocytes which comprised the thick stratum externum, and surface flaking of the outermost cells which were covered by stubby microvillous-like remnants of intercellular junctions. These results thus suggest that the long-tem aquatic evolution of this cetacean species has resulted in a number of integumentary specializations and that investigation of their submicroscopic cytology may help elucidate the general cell biology of nuclear-cytoplasmic interactions.

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