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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 144:197-208 (2021)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03591

Biochemical and hematological biomarkers of reproductive failure in bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus

Ashley Barratclough1,*, Forrest M. Gomez1, Jeanine S. Morey1, Jennifer M. Meegan1, Celeste Parry1, Lori Schwacke1, Eric D. Jensen2, Cynthia R. Smith1

1National Marine Mammal Foundation, 2240 Shelter Island Drive, Suite 200, San Diego, CA 92106, USA
2US Navy Marine Mammal Program, 53560 Hull Street, San Diego, CA 92152, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The physiological demands of pregnancy inevitably result in alterations in both biochemical and hematological parameters as fetal development occurs. The shifts observed in successful pregnancy in bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus to support both fetal physiological needs and maternal basal requirements have been established according to each trimester. Detecting aberrations in blood-based biomarkers could help facilitate diagnosis of gestational abnormalities, improve our understanding of factors influencing reproductive outcomes and aid in prediction of reproductive failure. This study retrospectively analyzed 263 blood samples from 15 bottlenose dolphins in 21 failed pregnancies over 28 yr (1989-2017). Most samples remained within normal pregnancy reference ranges; however, significant shifts were observed between trimesters. Hematological alterations, compared to successful pregnancy reference ranges from previously published data, were consistent across failed pregnancies and included an increased prevalence of elevated 2nd and 3rd trimester neutrophils, elevated 2nd trimester monocytes and decreased 3rd trimester eosinophils. In addition, low hematocrit and low red blood cells were more prevalent in the 2nd trimester. Biochemical shifts included an increased prevalence of elevated creatine phosphokinase in the 3rd trimester outside of the normal reference ranges. Across failed pregnancies, calcium and iron were decreased in the 3rd trimester. Significantly decreased progesterone in the 3rd trimester was a negative prognostic indicator of pregnancy outcome with decreasing 3rd trimester progesterone associated with failed pregnancy. This study demonstrates the use of blood-based biomarkers as possible predictors of pregnancy outcome in bottlenose dolphins.


KEY WORDS: Dolphin · Pregnancy · Failure · Blood · Biochemistry · Hematology · Biomarker


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Cite this article as: Barratclough A, Gomez FM, Morey JS, Meegan JM and others (2021) Biochemical and hematological biomarkers of reproductive failure in bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus. Dis Aquat Org 144:197-208. https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03591

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