Morphological features of coronary arteries and lesions in hearts from five species of sharks collected from the northwestern Atlantic Ocean


CorrespondenceDr J D Borucinska, Department of Biology, University of Hartford, 200 Bloomfield Avenue, West Hartford, CT 06117-1559, USA (e-mail:


Morphological features of coronary arteries and incidental lesions are reported from hearts in five species of sharks, the shortfin mako shark, Isurus oxyrhinchus Rafinesque, thresher shark Alopias vulpinus (Bonaterre), blue shark, Prionace glauca L., the smooth dogfish, Mustelus canis (Mitchill), and spiny dogfish, Squalus acanthias L. Sharks were collected from the northwestern Atlantic between June and August from 1996 to 2010. They were necropsied dockside and the hearts were preserved in buffered formalin. Routine sections including ventricle/conus arteriosus and the atrio-ventricular junctions were embedded in paraffin, stained with common histological and immunohistochemical methods and examined by brightfield microscopy. Myointimal hyperplasia, medial myo-myxomatous hyperplasia and bifurcation pads were observed commonly, and medial muscle reorientation and epicardial myeloid tissues were rare. All the above features differed in severity, prevalence and distribution depending on anatomical site and shark species/size. Morphometric analysis indicated that myomyxomatous hyperplasia is associated with luminal narrowing of blood vessels. As suggested previously, the described morphological features are most likely physiological responses to blood flow characteristics. Vascular and cardiac lesions were uncommon and included, granulomatous proliferative epicarditis with fibroepitheliomas, myxomatous epicardial expansions, medial arterial vacuolation, myocardial fibrosis, acute ventricular emboli and parasitic granulomas. The lesions of embolism, proliferative and granulomatous epicarditis and myocardial fibrosis were in all sharks associated with capture events including retained fishing hooks. The significance and aetiopathogenesis of medial vacuolation and epicardial myxomatous expansions remains unclear.