Objective—To develop robust reference intervals for hematologic and serum biochemical variables by use of data derived from free-ranging bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and examine potential variation in distributions of clinicopathologic values related to sampling sites' geographic locations.
Animals—255 free-ranging bottlenose dolphins.
Procedures—Data from samples collected during multiple bottlenose dolphin capture-release projects conducted at 4 southeastern US coastal locations in 2000 through 2006 were combined to determine reference intervals for 52 clinicopathologic variables. A nonparametric bootstrap approach was applied to estimate 95th percentiles and associated 90% confidence intervals; the need for partitioning by length and sex classes was determined by testing for differences in estimated thresholds with a bootstrap method. When appropriate, quantile regression was used to determine continuous functions for 95th percentiles dependent on length. The proportion of out-of-range samples for all clinicopathologic measurements was examined for each geographic site, and multivariate ANOVA was applied to further explore variation in leukocyte subgroups.
Results—A need for partitioning by length and sex classes was indicated for many clinicopathologic variables. For each geographic site, few significant deviations from expected number of out-of-range samples were detected. Although mean leukocyte counts did not vary among sites, differences in the mean counts for leukocyte subgroups were identified.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Although differences in the centrality of distributions for some variables were detected, the 95th percentiles estimated from the pooled data were robust and applicable across geographic sites. The derived reference intervals provide critical information for conducting bottlenose dolphin population health studies.