During necropsy of cetaceans stranded or accidentally net-captured along the western coast of the Gulf of Mexico from 1991 to 1996, we found 13 of 59 (22%) animals had abnormalities of the atlanto-occipital and/or humeroscapular joints, the synovial joints. A few cases demonstrated mild roughening of the articular cartilage, while the majority exhibited complete erosion with thickened synovium and bony proliferation. The lesions resulted in ankylosis of both joints in one animal. In humans and terrestrial mammals, synovial joint diseases are known to be debilitating. Cetaceans depend on neck and flipper movement for locomotion, feeding, avoiding danger, and reaching the water's surface for breathing. Therefore, synovial joint disease may be a significant mortality factor in these marine animals.

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