In January 1998 and 1999, two mass strandings of dolphins occurred in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. The strandings were composed of 97 and 53 animals, respectively. Tissues from 35 Atlantic white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus acutus) from the 1998 stranding and 52 from the 1999 stranding were examined histologically. In the 1998 stranding, unidentified protozoal tissue cysts were seen in skeletal muscle from 11 of 28 (39%) dolphins. In addition, two dolphins had a protozoal tissue cyst in cardiac muscle. In the 1999 stranding, nine of 23 (39%) dolphins had the same protozoal tissue cysts in skeletal muscle. The identification of these protozoal tissue cysts as Sarcocystis sp. was confirmed by light and transmission electron microscopy. The high prevalence of sarcocysts in these dolphins suggests that they are likely intermediate hosts for previously undescribed Sarcocystis spp. The ultrastructure of the sarcocyst walls suggests that more than one species of Sarcocystis are present in dolphins.
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Vol. 38 • No. 2