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Hematologic and serum biochemical reference intervals for free-ranging common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and variation in the distributions of clinicopathologic values related to geographic sampling site

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  • 1 NOAA Ocean Service, Hollings Marine Laboratory, 331 Ft Johnson Rd, Charleston, SC 29412.
  • | 2 Sea Mammal Research Unit, Gatty Marine Laboratory, University of St Andrews, Fife, Scotland, KY16 8LB.
  • | 3 Bayside Hospital for Animals, 251 NE Racetrack Rd, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32547.
  • | 4 Chicago Zoological Society, c/o Mote Marine Laboratory, 1600 Ken Thompson Pkwy, Sarasota, FL 34236.
  • | 5 NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Fisheries Science Center, 101 Pivers Island Rd, Beaufort, NC 28516.
  • | 6 NOAA Fisheries, Southeast Fisheries Science Center, 101 Pivers Island Rd, Beaufort, NC 28516.
  • | 7 Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University, Fort Pierce, FL 24946.
  • | 8 NOAA Ocean Service Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research, 219 Ft Johnson Rd, Charleston, SC 29412.
  • | 9 NOAA Fisheries, Office of Protected Resources, 1315 E West Hwy, Silver Spring, MD 20910.

Abstract

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.

Abstract

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.

Contributor Notes

Dr. Bossart's present address is Georgia Aquarium, 225 Baker St NW, Atlanta, GA 30313.

Supported by the National Marine Fisheries Service Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program.

The work from the Indian River Lagoon, Fla, and Charleston, SC, received additional support from Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute's “Protect Wild Dolphins” program, was conducted under National Marine Fisheries Permit No. 998-1678-01, and was approved by the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

Sample collection in Beaufort, NC, was conducted by the National Marine Fisheries Service Southeast Fisheries Science Center under Scientific Research Permit No. 779-1681-00.

Field sample collection in Sarasota, Fla, was conducted under National Marine Fisheries Service Scientific Research Permit Nos. 522-1569 and 522-1785, approved by the Mote Marine Laboratory Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, and received additional support from Dolphin Quest and the Chicago Zoological Society.

Address correspondence to Dr. Schwacke.