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Hart, Leslie B.; Wells, Randall S.; Kellar, Nick; Balmer, Brian C.; Hohn, Aleta A.; Lamb, Stephen V.; Rowles, Teri; Zolman, Eric S.; Schwacke, Lori H. (2015)
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Journal: PLoS ONE
Languages: English
Types: Article
Subjects: Q, R, Research Article, Science, Medicine
Inshore common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) are exposed to a broad spectrum of natural and anthropogenic stressors. In response to these stressors, the mammalian adrenal gland releases hormones such as cortisol and aldosterone to maintain physiological and biochemical homeostasis. Consequently, adrenal gland dysfunction results in disruption of hormone secretion and an inappropriate stress response. Our objective herein was to develop diagnostic reference intervals (RIs) for adrenal hormones commonly associated with the stress response (i.e., cortisol, aldosterone) that account for the influence of intrinsic (e.g., age, sex) and extrinsic (e.g., time) factors. Ultimately, these reference intervals will be used to gauge an individual's response to chase-capture stress and could indicate adrenal abnormalities. Linear mixed models (LMMs) were used to evaluate demographic and sampling factors contributing to differences in serum cortisol and aldosterone concentrations among bottlenose dolphins sampled in Sarasota Bay, Florida, USA (2000-2012). Serum cortisol concentrations were significantly associated with elapsed time from initial stimulation to sample collection (p<0.05), and RIs were constructed using nonparametric methods based on elapsed sampling time for dolphins sampled in less than 30 minutes following net deployment (95% RI: 0.91-4.21 µg/dL) and following biological sampling aboard a research vessel (95% RI: 2.32-6.68 µg/dL). To examine the applicability of the pre-sampling cortisol RI across multiple estuarine stocks, data from three additional southeast U.S. sites were compared, revealing that all of the dolphins sampled from the other sites (N = 34) had cortisol concentrations within the 95th percentile RI. Significant associations between serum concentrations of aldosterone and variables reported in previous studies (i.e., age, elapsed sampling time) were not observed in the current project (p<0.05). Also, approximately 16% of Sarasota Bay bottlenose dolphin aldosterone concentrations were below the assay's detection limit (11 pg/mL), thus hindering the ability to derive 95th percentile RIs. Serum aldosterone concentrations from animals sampled at the three additional sites were compared to the detection limit, and the proportion of animals with low aldosterone concentrations was not significantly different than an expected prevalence of 16%. Although this study relied upon long-term, free-ranging bottlenose dolphin health data from a single site, the objective RIs can be used for future evaluation of adrenal function among individuals sampled during capture-release health assessments.

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