Renal and vaginal calculi in a free-ranging long-beaked common dolphin Delphinus capensis

Kerri Danil, Sophie Dennison, Elyse Wurster, Michael M. Garner, Jody Lulich, Judy St Leger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bilateral nephrolithiasis with a concurrent vaginal calculus was identified in a stranded free-ranging long-beaked common dolphin Delphinus capensis. Necropsy and radiologic examinations of the sexually mature D. capensis revealed multiple small irregularly round nephroliths and a 6.4 × 4.1 × 9.2 cm vaginal calculus weighing 182 g. Nephroliths numbered 68 and 71 in the left and right kidneys, respectively, and ranged from 1.7 to 6.9 mm in diameter. Nephroliths were composed of 100% ammonium urate, which has been found in captive dolphin populations. However, the vaginolith consisted of struvite and calcium carbonate suggesting an alternate etiology. The composition of the vaginolith suggests that bacterial vaginitis could have served as the predisposing condition. Renal lesions included chronic tubulointerstitial nephritis with tubular degeneration and loss, likely secondary to the nephroliths. The pathogenesis of ammonium urate nephrolithiasis in managed care is suspected to be linked to diet and age but in this case may be due to metabolic disruption. However, if environmental changes cause a shift in prey species, the risk of nephrolithiasis in free-ranging cetaceans could increase. Careful surveillance for nephroliths in free-ranging populations should be considered by researchers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-271
Number of pages7
JournalDiseases of aquatic organisms
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements. Thank you to Keiko Sherman, Holly Baijnuth, and Alexa Kownacki for assistance with the necropsy examination; and Katie Colegrove, David Gasper, Tracey Goldstein, Kathi Lefebvre, Victoria Palmer, Sarena Sunico, and Lisa Ulrich for diagnostic services. Hill’s Pet Nutrition provided financial support for calculi composition analyses.

Publisher Copyright:
© Inter-Research 2019.


  • Calculi
  • Cetacean
  • Common dolphin
  • Delphinus
  • Marine mammal
  • Nephrolith
  • Vaginolith


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