A study of the microbiological flora isolated from cultures of normal and lesional skin tissue samples collected from 19 bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) over a 4 yr period is presented. These cultures were obtained from 30 tissue samples (17 normal, 13 lesion) and 248 swab samples (157 normal, 91 lesion). Seven hundred-thirty bacterial and yeast isolations were made (285 normal, 445 lesion). Distribution revealed that 56% of the gram positive bacterial isolates, 75% of the gram negative bacterial isolates and 64% of the yeast isolates recovered were associated with lesional skin. It was found that 80% of one group of Corynebacterium sp. isolates, 90% of the Acinetobacter sp. isolates and 94% of the Moraxella sp. isolates were associated with lesional skin. Although the primary yeasts recovered were Candida spp., they were found on both normal and lesional skin. Enzymatic assays of isolates from normal and lesional skin demonstrated production of enzymes capable of causing necrosis. The majority of the microorganisms recovered were facultative anaerobes and many of them could be considered potential pathogens of mammalian hosts.

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