The structure of the adrenal gland was studied in 11 bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), and five striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba). These species are legally protected in Croatia. All examined animals died of natural causes and were found stranded along eastern Adriatic coast. In both species the adrenal gland consists of a cortex and a medulla; the cortex is divided into three zones. Whereas in the bottlenose dolphin, there is a zona arcuata which contains columnar cells arranged in the form of arches; in the striped dolphin this zone is replaced by zona glomerulosa containing rounded clusters of polygonal cells. In both species, the zona fasciculata consists of radially oriented cords of polygonal cells, whereas in zona reticularis cells are arranged in branching and anastomosing cords. The adrenal medulla in both species contains dark, epinephrine-secreting cells and light norepinephrine-secreting cells. Epinephrine-secreting cells are localized in the outer part of the medulla, whereas norepinephrine-secreting cells are found in the inner part, arranged in clusters and surrounded by septa of thin connective tissue. The gland is surrounded by a thick connective-tissue capsule, from where thick trabeculae extend towards the interior. In the bottlenose dolphin, group of cells resembling both medullar and cortical cells can be seen within the capsule; whereas only groups of cells resembling cortical cells are found within the capsule of the striped dolphin. In the bottlenose dolphin invagination of the adrenal cortex into the medulla is obvious as well as medullary protrusions extending through cortex to the connective tissue capsule. © 2009 Blackwell Verlag GmbH.
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