Fecal steroid hormones reveal reproductive state in female blue whales sampled in the Gulf of California, Mexico

Marcia Valenzuela-Molina, Shannon Atkinson, Kendall Mashburn, Diane Gendron, Robert L. Brownell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

© 2018 Elsevier Inc. Steroid hormone assessment using non-invasive sample collection techniques can reveal the reproductive status of aquatic mammals and the physiological mechanisms by which they respond to changes in their environment. A portion of the eastern North Pacific blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) population that seasonally visits the Gulf of California, Mexico has been monitored using photo-identified individuals for over 30 years. The whales use the area in winter-early spring for nursing their calves and feeding and it therefore is well suited for fecal sample collection. Using radioimmunoassays in 25 fecal samples collected between 2009 and 2012 to determine reproductive state and stress, we validated three steroid hormones (progesterone, corticosterone and cortisol) in adult female blue whales. Females that were categorized as pregnant had higher mean fecal progesterone metabolite concentrations (1292.6 ± 415.6 ng·g-1) than resting and lactating females (14.0 ± 3.7 ng·g-1; 23.0 ± 5.4 ng·g-1, respectively). Females classified as pregnant also had higher concentrations of corticosterone metabolites (37.5 ± 9.9 ng·g-1) than resting and lactating females (17.4 ± 2.0 ng·g-1; 16.8 ± 2.8 ng·g-1, respectively). In contrast, cortisol metabolite concentrations showed high variability between groups and no significant relationship to reproductive state. We successfully determined preliminary baseline parameters of key steroid hormones by reproductive state in adult female blue whales. The presence of pregnant or with luteal activity and known lactating females confirms that the Gulf of California is an important winter-spring area for the reproductive phase of these blue whales. The baseline corticosterone levels we are developing will be useful for assessing the impact of the increasing coastal development and whale-watching activities on the whales in the Gulf of California.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)127-135
Number of pages113
JournalGeneral and Comparative Endocrinology
DOIs
StatePublished - 15 May 2018
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Balaenoptera
Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of California
steroid hormones
Mexico
lactating females
Steroids
Hormones
corticosterone
whales
Whales
Corticosterone
metabolites
cortisol
progesterone
Progesterone
Hydrocortisone
winter
radioimmunoassays
corpus luteum

Cite this

Valenzuela-Molina, Marcia ; Atkinson, Shannon ; Mashburn, Kendall ; Gendron, Diane ; Brownell, Robert L. / Fecal steroid hormones reveal reproductive state in female blue whales sampled in the Gulf of California, Mexico. In: General and Comparative Endocrinology. 2018 ; pp. 127-135.
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Fecal steroid hormones reveal reproductive state in female blue whales sampled in the Gulf of California, Mexico. / Valenzuela-Molina, Marcia; Atkinson, Shannon; Mashburn, Kendall; Gendron, Diane; Brownell, Robert L.

In: General and Comparative Endocrinology, 15.05.2018, p. 127-135.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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