Cetaceans are tight-skinned mammals that exhibit an extraordinary capacity to heal deep soft tissue injuries. However, essential information of large full-thickness wound healing in cetaceans is still lacking. Here, the stages of full-thickness wound healing were characterized in Fraser’s dolphins (Lagenodelphis hosei). The skin samples were collected from normal skin and full-thickness cookiecutter shark (Isistius brasiliensis)-bite wounds of stranded carcasses. We defined five stages of wound healing according to macroscopic and histopathological examinations. Wounds in Stage 1 and 2 were characterized by intercellular and intracellular edema in the epidermal cells near the wound edge, mixed inflammatory cell infiltration, and degradation of collagen fibers. In Stage 3 wounds, melanocytes, melanin granules, rete and dermal ridges were noticed in the neo-epidermis, and the adipose tissue in adjacent blubber was replaced by cells and fibers. Wounds in Stage 4 and 5 were characterized by gradual restoration of the normal skin architecture including rete and dermal ridges, collagen bundles, and adipose tissue. These phenomena were quite different from previous studies in terrestrial tight-skinned mammals, and therefore, further in-depth research into the mechanisms of dolphin wound healing would be needed to gain new insights into veterinary and human regenerative medicine.
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