DOLPHIN THYROID AND ADRENAL HORMONES: CIRCULATING LEVELS IN WILD AND SEMIDOMESTICATED TURSIOPS TRUNCATUS, AND INFLUENCE OF SEX, AGE, AND SEASON

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Abstract

Biological and environmental influences on circulating adrenal and thyroid hormones were investigated in 36 wild and 36 semidomesticated Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus, matched by age, sex, and time of year when the samples were collected. Serum concentrations of thyroxine (free [fT41 and total [tT4]), triiodothyronine (free [fT3], total [tT3], and total reverse [rT37), cortisol, and aldosterone were determined by radio-immunoassay, Wild female dolphins had significantly higher levels of tT4, fT4 and fT3, an effect that was possibly related to reproduction and lactation. Semidomesticated females had higher tT3 than their wild counterparts. fT4 declined with age in wild dolphins, whereas rT3 was greatest in the older animals. Cortisol and aldosterone were both higher in wild animals sampled after a variable interval of up to four hours after encirclement by capture net. The pattern of adrenal hormone release suggested a mild stress response. Levels of both adrenal hormones were low in semidomesticated dolphins conditioned to present voluntarily their tails for blood sampling, an approach that appears to yield specimens representative of resting values for these constituents.

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