Reference intervals and values for fecal cortisol, aldosterone, and the ratio of cortisol to dehydroepiandrosterone metabolites in four species of cetaceans

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Lance J Miller, Lisa K Lauderdale, Michael T Walsh, Jocelyn L Bryant, Kevin A Mitchell, Douglas A Granger, Jill D Mellen
PloS one
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The goal of the current study was to create reference intervals and values for several common and one potential novel physiological indicators of animal welfare for four species of cetaceans. The subjects included 189 bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), 27 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus), eight Pacific white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens), and 13 beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) at Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums and/or Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredited facilities. During two sampling time periods between July and November of 2018 and between January and April of 2019, fecal samples were collected weekly for five weeks from all animals. Samples were processed and analyzed using enzyme immunoassay for fecal cortisol, aldosterone, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) metabolites. Linear mixed models were used to examine demographic and time factors impacting hormone metabolite concentrations. Age, sex, and time of year were all significant predictors for some of the models (p < 0.01). An iOS mobile application ZooPhysioTrak was created for easy access to species-specific reference intervals and values accounting for significant predictors. For facilities without access to this application, additional reference intervals and values were constructed without accounting for significant predictors. Information gained from this study and the use of the application can provide reference intervals and values to make informed management decisions for cetaceans in zoological facilities.


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