[MARMAM] New Publication - Evaluation of respiratory vapour and blubber samples for use in endocrine assessments of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops spp.)

Mr Fletcher Mingramm fletcher.mingramm at uqconnect.edu.au
Sun Feb 17 17:23:43 PST 2019

Dear MARMAM colleagues,

We are pleased to announce that the following paper is now available online:

F.M.J. Mingramm, R.A. Dunlop, D. Blyde, D.J. Whitworth, T. Keeley (2019). Evaluation of respiratory vapour and blubber samples for use in endocrine assessments of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops spp.), General and Comparative Endocrinology, 274, 37-49.

Blubber and respiratory vapour (‘blow’) are now commonly used for endocrine studies on cetaceans, primarily because they can be obtained using minimally invasive methods. For many species, these samples have yet to be validated for these purposes. The objective of this study was to examine the performance of blow and blubber hormone monitoring, relative to serum hormone monitoring, for evaluating the reproductive and adrenal condition of captive bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops spp.). Eighteen bottlenose dolphins were sampled five times for serum and blow and twice for blubber throughout a one-year period. Concentrations of progesterone, testosterone, oestradiol and cortisol were measured in each sample type. Hormone levels were examined in relation to dolphin age, sex, reproductive status, season, time of sample collection (morning/afternoon) and collection type (in- or out-of-water sampling). Patterns in hormone levels were similar for serum and blubber. For instance, in both sample types, progesterone levels were significantly higher in pregnant (serum: 34.10 ± 8.64 ng/mL; blubber: 13.01 ± 0.72 ng/g) than in non-pregnant females (serum: 0.32 ± 0.09 ng/mL; blubber: 1.17 ± 0.10 ng/g). This pattern was not detected in blow, primarily because seawater contamination, nylon sampling materials and variable sample volumes influenced measured concentrations. In addition, the respiratory water content of a blow sample is known to affect measured hormone levels. Two methods were trialled to control for variability in sample volumes and dilution: (1) normalising blow hormone concentrations relative to urea nitrogen levels (a potential endogenous standard), and (2) measuring the relative proportions (i.e. ratios) of blow hormones. These correction measures had little influence on blow hormone results. Further refinement of blow hormone monitoring methods is required before they can be used for reproductive or adrenal assessments of bottlenose dolphins. Blubber, on the other hand, should be a suitable proxy for serum when attempting to classify pregnancy status and male maturity in these species.

An open access copy can currently be downloaded from:


Kind regards,


Fletcher Mingramm B.Sc. (Hons) PhD (Marine Science)

Cetacean Ecology and Acoustics Laboratory
University of Queensland
School of Veterinary Science, Gatton, QLD
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