STDs in Whales? (fwd)

From: pita admininstrator (
Date: Tue Sep 05 2000 - 13:32:16 EDT

Date: Tue, 05 Sep 2000 05:47:11 -0400
From: Phil Clapham <>
Subject: Re: Are there STDs in Whales?


Interesting question. Whoever he is, he hasn't published on this to my
knowledge. Nematodes of many types commonly infest mammals, including
marine mammals. Indeed, the giant nematode Crassicauda (think very
large, as in you'd need a bucket to coil it in!) infests baleen whales
such as fins and humpbacks. One parasitologist believes that a lot of
the natural mortality among fin whales is due to crassicaudosis, where
massive infestation of vital organs (notably kidneys) results in organ

I have never heard of any sexually transmitted disease in cetaceans,
although there's no reason reason why one shouldn't exist. If this has
been published anywhere, it will either be in some obscure medical/vet
journal, or maybe in the Scientific Reports of the Whales Research
Institute, Tokyo (now defunct).

I'll check with someone I know who's a parasitologist and see if he has
any idea.


Phil Clapham wrote:
> About 22 years ago I heard a lecture by a professor from California State
> University Long Beach. He was telling us that he had been allowed to do
> research on a Japanese Whaling ship for 6 month (and at that time was the
> only American ever given that permission by the Japanese government!). While
> on the trip he said he had discovered and traced the male half of a sexually
> transmitted disease in which the whales are infested with nematodes. He
> showed slides of all his adventures and also of the infected whales. His
> pictures showed the male whale's penises literally packed with nematodes. I
> remember that he was of the opinion that the Japanese were only able to
> catch those whales which were sick with such diseases and slowed down and
> disabled. Thus he didn't feel they were culling very many healthy
> individuals. My question is: Has this research been completed and is it now
> fact that whales are infected with nematodes and that they are sexually
> transmitted? I of course only heard this one lecture and have always
> wondered what became of his ideas. I'm sorry I don't remember his name but I
> believe he was a fairly well respected marine mammal biologist at the time.
> Thank you for your time. Sue Carr


Phillip J. Clapham, Ph.D. Large Whale Biology Program Northeast Fisheries Science Center 166 Water Street Woods Hole, MA 02543

tel (508) 495-2316 fax (508) 495-2258 Internet:

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