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Keywords:

  • blow;
  • whale;
  • testosterone;
  • progesterone

Abstract

The feasibility of using analysis of hormone content of whale blow samples to assess reproductive function is addressed. A suitable collection method and analytical technique using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) has been developed. Blow samples were collected opportunistically from free-ranging humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) (n= 35) and North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) (n= 18) using a 13-m carbon fiber pole with a collection device. Samples were analyzed for the presence of testosterone and progesterone using a 55% isocratic gradient with LC-MS. Testosterone was detected in four humpback whale samples and eight northern right whale samples. Progesterone was detected in seven humpback whale samples and eight northern right whale samples. This is the first documented use of lung mucosa to determine the presence of reproductive hormones in any free-swimming cetacean and may provide a novel non-invasive technique to quantify the hormonal condition of free-swimming animals that spend brief periods of time at the water's surface.