• anatomy;
  • computed tomography;
  • thorax;
  • cetacean;
  • dolphin;
  • Tursiops truncatus


Pulmonary disease is one of the leading causes of cetacean morbidity and mortality in the wild and in managed collections. The purpose of this study was to present the computed tomographic (CT) appearance of the thorax of the live bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) out-of-water and to describe the technical and logistical parameters involved in CT image acquisition in this species. Six thoracic CT evaluations of four conscious adult bottlenose dolphins were performed between April 2007 and May 2012. Animals were trained to slide out of the water onto foam pads and were transported in covered trucks to a human CT facility. Under light sedation, animals were secured in sternal recumbency for acquisition of CT data. Non-contrast helical images were obtained during an end-inspiratory breath hold. Diagnostic, high quality images were obtained in all cases. Respiratory motion was largely insignificant due to the species' apneustic respiratory pattern. CT findings characteristic of this species include the presence of a bronchus trachealis, absence of lung lobation, cranial cervical extension of the lung, lack of conspicuity of intrathoracic lymph nodes, and presence of retia mirabilia. Dorsoventral narrowing of the heart relative to the thorax was seen in all animals and is suspected to be an artifact of gravity loading. Diagnostic thoracic computed tomography of live cetaceans is feasible and likely to prove clinically valuable. A detailed series of cross-sectional reference images is provided. Anat Rec, 297:901–915, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.