+49 30 838 53555
The adrenal gland is a vitally important endocrine gland that occupies a central role in the regulatory mechanisms of the body metabolism. Environmental stress factors lead to permanent strain and overload of the body resulting in structural alterations of the adrenals that in turn are followed by hormonal imbalances. This leads to an increased susceptibility to bacterial and viral diseases. The recurrence of numerous fatalities in the different seal populations of the North Sea (during the years 1988, 1989 and 2002), of the Baikal Lake and Caspian Sea (during the years 2000 and 2001) were the motive for a morphological investigation of the species-specific structure of the adrenal gland of the common seal in order to differentiate environmental stress-induced pathological alterations from the physiological structure of this organ. The study was based on adrenals of 112 common seals (Phoca vitulina vitulina) using light microscopic and transmission and scanning electron microscopic methods. The phocine adrenal gland displays several structural characteristics. Originating from the connective tissue organ capsule, narrow and broad septa intersperse the adrenal cortex. These septa contain blastemata as a reserve for the regeneration of hormone-producing cortical cells. Such blastemata are also occurring in the form of an intermediate zone in between the zona glomerulosa and zona fasciculata in the phocine adrenal cortex. Another species-specific characteristic is an inverse part of the adrenal cortex encircling the central vein of the organ. These structural features have to be considered in assessment and definition of pathological alterations of the adrenals as observed in the form of exhausted blastema cell pools in the adrenocortex of seals perished in the mentioned phocine mass mortalities.