[MARMAM] New Publication : Evaluating morphometric and metabolic markers of body condition

Joanna Kershaw jk49 at st-andrews.ac.uk
Tue Apr 18 03:35:27 PDT 2017

Dear colleagues,

My co-authors and I are pleased to announce the publication of the
following article in Ecology and Evolution:

Kershaw, J. L. Sherrill, M. Davison, N. J. Brownlow, A. Hall, A. J. 2017.
Evaluating morphometric and metabolic markers of body condition in a small
cetacean, the harbour porpoise (*Phocoena phocoena*). Ecology and
Evolution. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.2891

Abstract: Mammalian body condition is an important individual fitness
metric as it affects both survival and reproductive success. The ability to
accurately measure condition has key implications for predicting individual
and population health, and therefore monitoring the population-level
effects of changing environments. No consensus currently exists on the best
measure to quantitatively estimate body condition in many species,
including cetaceans. Here, two measures of body condition were investigated
in the harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena). First, the most informative
morphometric body condition index was identified. The mass/length2 ratio
was the most appropriate morphometric index of 10 indices tested,
explaining 50% of the variation in condition in stranded, male porpoises
with different causes of death and across age classes (n = 291).
Mass/length2 was then used to evaluate a second measure, blubber cortisol
concentration, as a metabolic condition marker. Cortisol is the main
glucocorticoid hormone involved in the regulation of lipolysis and overall
energy balance in mammals, and concentrations could provide information on
physiological state. Blubber cortisol concentrations did not significantly
vary around the girth (n = 20), but there was significant vertical
stratification through the blubber depth with highest concentrations in the
innermost layer. Concentrations in the dorsal, outermost layer were
representative of concentrations through the full blubber depth, showed
variation by sex and age class, and were negatively correlated with
mass/length2. Using this species as a model for live cetaceans from which
standard morphometric measurements cannot be taken, but from which blubber
biopsy samples are routinely collected, cortisol concentrations in the
dorsal, outermost blubber layer could potentially be used as a biomarker of
condition in free-ranging animals.

The publication is available at

Best wishes,

Joanna Kershaw

Joanna Kershaw

Sea Mammal Research Unit
Scottish Oceans Institute
University of St Andrews
KY16 8LB

Twitter: @_SMRU_

The University of St Andrews is a charity registered in Scotland : No
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