SATURN researchers at the Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research (ITAW) at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover (TiHo) have just documented the first reported case of lesions in the inner ear of a newborn harbour seal, which were likely present at birth.
Thus far in the SATURN project, we've analysed a number of ears of stranded (deceased) marine marine mammals to determine if the animal had a hearing impairment before death, and which were the potential causes. Marine mammals can acquire damage to their inner ears from infectious pathogens, as a result of ageing, or through exposure to anthropogenic sources like underwater noise. Having baseline knowledge on congenital defects (those present at birth) in the inner ear, which we now have for a harbour seal, can therefore help us to determine whether malformations in stranded animals are “natural”, or whether the animal had a possible history of noise-induced hearing loss.
The paper, “Selective Inner Hair Cell Loss in a Neonate Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina)” is available for open access in the journal Animals at https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/12/2/180.
Morell, M.; Rojas, L.; Haulena, M.; Busse, B.; Siebert, U.; Shadwick, R.E.; Raverty, S.A. (2022) Selective Inner Hair Cell Loss in a Neonate Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina). Animals 12, 180. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani12020180