[MARMAM] Reproductive Biology of the Female Bottlenose Dolphin

Holley Muraco holleymuraco at yahoo.com
Mon Nov 30 09:03:19 PST 2015

I would like to announce that my doctoral dissertation entitled Reproductive
biology of the female bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) is now
published and available as a PDF. 


Thank you

Holley Muraco

holley at muraco.biz



Muraco, H. 2015. Reproductive biology of the female bottlenose dolphin
(Tursiops truncatus). Doctoral Dissertation. Animal and Dairy Sciences,
Mississippi State University. 228 pp. 




The goal of this long-term study was to better understand the reproductive
biology of the female bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) and provide a
hypothesis for how dolphins may communicate reproductive readiness to one
another. Utilizing conditioned dolphins in aquaria, this dissertation
examined several previously unknown aspects of dolphin reproduction,
including ovarian follicular dynamics during the luteinizing hormone surge,
urinary prolactin levels, estrus behavior, vaginal fluid arboriform
arrangement, in-situ vaginal and cervical anatomy during estrus,
reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography (RP-HPLC) of urine
samples to identify proteins and peptides that may be used in chemical
communication, and a review and anatomical analysis of dolphin vibrassal
crypts. The diffusely seasonal dolphin estrous cycle is not controlled by
photoperiod and has a 10-day follicular and 20-day luteal phase. A brief
ovulatory LH surge is followed by ovulation within 48 hours. An ethogram of
20 reproductive behaviors was developed, and all occurrences of reproductive
behavior were analyzed during conceptive estrous cycles. A novel form of
standing heat estrus, termed immobility, was observed, and estrus dolphins
displayed genital nuzzling, active and passive mounting with other females,
and an increase of standing heat intensity as LH levels rose. Prolactin
plays a role in pregnancy maintenance, mammary development, allo-mothering
behavior, lactation, and lactational anestrus. Dolphins are similar to sows
where weaning causes a return to estrus, and in the boar effect, where days
to ovulation are shortened in the presence of a mature male. Dolphin vaginal
fluid showed crystallization arrangements with large open mesh patterns,
conducive to sperm transport, during the estrogenic follicular phase, and
closed mesh during the luteal phase. RP-HPLC analysis revealed that urine
contained large amounts of peptides and proteins with peaks that change
throughout the estrous cycle and with changes in social grouping. Remnant
vibrissae from dolphin follicular crypts were sectioned, and it was
hypothesized that trigeminal nerve endings could act similarly to those
found in the nasal mucosa of terrestrial species and respond to chemical
stimuli. This study provides new data to better understand the reproductive
biology of a holaquatic mammal.

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