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Ultrasonographic and hormonal characterization of reproductive health and disease in wild, semiwild, and aquarium-housed southern stingrays (Hypanus americanus)

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  • 1 1Department of Animal Health, Disney's Animals, Science & Environment, Animal Programs, 1200 Savannah Cir, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830.
  • | 2 2Department of Science Operations, Disney's Animals, Science & Environment, Animal Programs, 1200 Savannah Cir, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830.
  • | 3 3South-East Zoo Alliance for Reproduction & Conservation, 581705 White Oak Rd, Yulee, FL 32097.
  • | 4 4Bimini Biological Field Station, South Bimini, Bahamas.
  • | 5 5SeaWorld Orlando, 7007 Sea World Dr, Orlando, FL 32821.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To characterize physical examination, plasma biochemical, and ultrasonographic findings in aquarium-housed, managed semiwild, and wild southern stingrays (Hypanus americanus) with and without reproductive disease.

ANIMALS

Southern stingrays from aquarium (n = 48), lagoon (managed semiwild; 34), and wild (12) habitats.

PROCEDURES

Limited, opportunistic prosections were performed of presumed anatomically normal wild southern stingrays and compared with findings for aquarium-housed stingrays with reproductive disease. Ultrasonographic video data from both groups were used to assign a score (1 to 5) indicating increasing severity of ovarian and uterine reproductive disease. Plasma total 17β-estradiol, estrone, progesterone, and testosterone concentrations were measured with enzyme immunoassays validated for use in southern stingrays.

RESULTS

Ultrasonographic ovarian scores were significantly correlated with uterine scores. No reproductive disease was detected in semiwild or wild stingrays, but 65% (31/48) of aquarium-housed stingrays had developing or advanced reproductive disease (ie, ultrasonographic ovarian or uterine score of 4 or 5). Significant correlations were identified between ovarian and uterine disease status and plasma concentrations of all steroid hormones except testosterone.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE

Findings suggested that ultrasonography and plasma hormone concentrations may be useful in the identification of reproductive disease and determination of disease severity in southern stingrays.

Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to Dr. Mylniczenko (natalie.mylniczenko@disney.com).