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Assessing Stress Responses in Beaked and Sperm Whales in the Bahamas

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Technical Report,01 Oct 2014,30 Sep 2015

Corporate Author:

New England Aquarium Boston United States

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The long-term goal of this project is to develop fecal hormone assays to assess stress responses in Blainvilles beaked whales Mesoplodon densirostris and sperm whales Physeter macrocephalus inhabiting the northern Bahamas. These deep-diving species were chosen to include a particularly acoustically-sensitive cetacean beaked whales and a co-occurring species sperm whales for comparison. The immediate goals are to 1 evaluate the feasibility of fecal sample collection from these two species, 2 validate immunoassays and determine fecal hormone levels for relatively un-disturbed reference populations of both species off Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas, and 3 characterize the natural variations in stress-related hormones according to life history stage age-class, sex, reproductive status. The results of this project will provide baseline levels of these hormones in beaked and sperm whales for comparison with conspecifics inhabiting environments with acoustic exposures, such as the nearby U.S. Navy Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center AUTEC, and experiencing known acoustic disturbances including mid-frequency active sonar.

Subject Categories:

  • Biological Oceanography
  • Biochemistry
  • Stress Physiology

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