Melanomacrophages in three species of free-ranging sharks from the northwestern Atlantic, the blue shark Prionacae glauca (L.), the shortfin mako, Isurus oxyrhinchus Rafinesque, and the thresher, Alopias vulpinus (Bonnaterre)
The melanomacrophage aggregates or cells (MMC) are commonly used as biomarkers of exposure to pollution in fish, albeit their numbers and morphological characteristics can be influenced not only by environmental toxins but also by a range of physiological parameters and pathological conditions. Accordingly, before we can use MMC as biomarkers in any fish species, their normal, ‘background’ characteristics have to be established in apparently healthy fish. The knowledge of MMC in sharks is minimal. The aim of this study was to characterize MMC from 51 free-ranging, large pelagic sharks from the northwestern Atlantic, including shortfin mako, Isurus oxyrhinchus, thresher, Alopias vulpinus and blue shark, Prionacae glauca. The rationale of this study was twofold. First, because, sharks have life histories predisposing them to the accumulation of environmental toxins they constitute good sentinel species of the health of the global marine ecosystem. Second, because many shark populations are in decline or threatened by extinction, we need to expand our understanding of their health status in order to develop appropriate protective measures. All sharks were collected by sports fishing gear between June and August in 2007. Their health condition was assessed by necropsy, morphometrics, and by microscopic examination of gonads, livers, spleens and kidneys. Routine, haematoxylin and eosin and/or Pearl’s reagent-stained paraffin embedded sections were studied by light microscopy. Our results provide the first data on the morphometric and morphological characteristics of MMC in viscera of apparently healthy free-ranging sharks from the northwestern Atlantic.