Cryptosporidium spp. and Giardia spp. are protozoan parasites that are often associated with severe diarrheal disease in a variety of mammals. Although these parasites have been extensively studied in terrestrial ecosystems, little is known about either parasite in the marine environment. Therefore, the objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of both Cryptosporidium spp. and Giardia spp. in 5 marine mammal species. Fecal samples were collected from 39 bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus), 49 North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis), 31 ringed seals (Phoca hispida), 22 bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus), and 18 beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) between 1998 and 2003. Using an immunofluorescent assay, parasites were detected in the feces of bowhead whales, right whales, and ringed seals, while neither parasite was detected in samples from bearded seals or beluga whales. Overall, prevalences were highest in ringed seals (Cryptosporidium spp., 22.6%; Giardia spp., 64.5%) and right whales (Cryptosporidium spp., 24.5%; Giardia spp., 71.4%) and lowest in bowhead whales (Cryptosporidium spp., 5.1%; Giardia spp., 33.3%). To our knowledge, this is the first report of Cryptosporidium spp. and Giardia spp. in either whale species and of Cryptosporidium spp. in the ringed seal.

You do not currently have access to this content.