Full-thickness epidermal biopsy samples were collected from free-ranging common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Sarasota Bay, Florida, USA. Season (summer or winter) of collection, mercury (Hg) concentration, and selenium (Se) concentration were compared to histologic parameters. Epidermal Hg concentration was positively related to age (P<0.001) and negatively related to height of the stratum spinosum (P<0.05). The mitotic index and heights of the stratum externum and intermedium were lower in summer than in winter (P<0.01). Transmission electron microscopic examination revealed variation in the diameters (60–138 nm) and arrangements of collagen fibers, regardless of age or concentrations of Hg and Se. The significance of the variation in height of the stratum spinosum and the perivascular collagen degeneration to dolphin health need further investigation.
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Vol. 47 • No. 4