[MARMAM] New Publication - Improved Pregnancy Detection in Humpback Whales

Susan Bengtson Nash s.bengtsonnash at griffith.edu.au
Thu Mar 5 02:40:50 PST 2020

Dear MARMAM Colleagues,

We are happy to announce our latest publication in Scientific Reports:

Dalle Luche, G., A. Boggs, J. Kucklick and S. Bengtson Nash (2019). "Androstenedione and testosterone but not progesterone are potential biomarkers of pregnancy in Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) approaching parturition." Scientific Reports.

In this paper, we uncover a ‘missing link’ in current understanding of the reproductive endocrinology of female humpback whales, and provide an improved method of pregnancy detection in females approaching parturition.


The blubber steroid hormone profiles of 52 female humpback whales migrating along the east coast of Australia were investigated for seasonal endocrine changes associated with reproduction. Individuals were randomly sampled during two stages of the annual migration: before reaching the breeding grounds (northward migration; June/July), and after departing from the breeding grounds (southward migration; September/October). Assignment of reproductive status of the sampled individuals was based on season, single-hormone ranks and multi-variate analysis of the hormonal profiles. High concentrations of progesterone (>19 ng/g, wet weight), recognised as an indicator of pregnancy in this species, were only detected in one sample. However, the androgens, testosterone and androstenedione were measured in unusually high concentrations (1.6–12 and 7.8–40 ng/g wet weight, respectively) in 36% of the females approaching the breeding grounds. The absence of a strong accompanying progesterone signal in these animals raises the possibility of progesterone withdrawal prior to parturition. As seen with other cetacean species, testosterone and androstenedione could be markers of near-term pregnancy in humpback whales. Confirmation of these androgens as alternate biomarkers of near-term pregnancy would carry implications for improved monitoring of the annual fecundity of humpback whales via non-lethal and minimally invasive methods.

Link to full text:  https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-58933-4#Sec2

Associate Professor Susan Bengtson Nash

Program Director

Southern Ocean Persistent Organic Pollutants Program (SOPOPP)

SCAR: Chair of ImPACT | ARC: College of Experts | Scientific Reports: Editor

Environmental Futures Research Institute (EFRI),  Griffith University,  Nathan Campus.

170 Kessels Road, Nathan, QLD 4111, Australia.

Email: s.bengtsonnash at griffith.edu.au | Phone: +61 (0)7 3735 5062  | Mobile: +61 (0)437 888 711

Twitter: @Antarctica_POPs | Skype: s.bengtsonnash | Website: http://www.griffith.edu.au/environment-planning-architecture/southern-ocean-persistent-organic-pollutants-program


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