Spontaneous neoplasms in harbour porpoises Phocoena phocoena
Harbour porpoises are widely distributed in the North Atlantic and represent the most abundant cetacean species in the North and Baltic Seas. Spontaneous neoplasms are relatively rarely reported in cetaceans, and only little is known about neoplasia in harbour porpoises. Thus, archival material was reviewed for spontaneous neoplasms in harbour porpoises recorded during post-mortem examinations between 1999 and 2018. Neoplasms were identified in 7 adult porpoises: 6 animals originating from the North and Baltic Seas and investigated as part of German and Dutch systematic health monitoring programs, and 1 porpoise from Greenlandic waters. The tumours were of different histogenetic origins and further characterised by histology and immunohistochemistry. One individual had a neoplasia in the digestive tract (adenocarcinoma, n = 1); 4 animals, in the genital tract (Sertoli cell tumour, n = 1; genital leiomyoma/fibroleiomyoma, n = 3); and 2 porpoises, in endocrine organs (adrenal adenoma, n = 2). This is the first report of an adenocarcinoma in the liver, a testicular Sertoli cell tumour and adrenocortical adenomas in harbour porpoises. The cause of the tumorigenesis in examined cases remains undetermined. The involvement of endogenous factors, including mutation of cell cycle regulating genes, such as the tumour-suppressor gene p53, cannot be ruled out. The aetiopathogenetic significance of exogenous factors, such as infectious agents like liver flukes or anthropogenic factors, including persistent organic pollutants, should be the subject of future investigations.