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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Concentrations of progesterone in milk from bottlenose dolphins during different reproductive states.

There are few published reports of an alternative, less invasive method than blood sampling to obtain reproductive hormone concentrations from captive dolphins. The aims of this study were to: (1) validate milk as an effective alternative to blood plasma for determining progesterone concentrations; and (2) utilize milk samples collected frequently to obtain progesterone concentration profiles and determine reproductive status. During the course of this study 16 plasma/milk sample pairs were collected from four adult bottlenose dolphins to correlate plasma and milk concentrations of progesterone. Milk samples were also collected approximately weekly for 4-5 months during three independent lactational periods. Additionally, milk samples were collected daily for approximately 1 year during three other independent lactational periods. A highly significant correlation was found between progesterone concentrations in plasma and milk (r(2) = 0.91, P < 0. 01). Progesterone contained in milk whey, fat, and solids were 3.95 +/- 1.3, 8.5 +/- 1.1, and 52.0 +/- 0.6%, respectively. Progesterone profiles from milk samples collected from two dolphins during 1995 indicated pregnancies (with progesterone concentrations between 8 and 46.5 ng/ml) which resulted in parturition. High progesterone concentrations in a third dolphin that did not give birth indicated a possible pseudopregnancy or fetal resorption. A possible ovulation not resulting in pregnancy was evident in one female in 1998, follicular activity in another female in 1998, and a year-long anestrous period in the third animal studied in 1998. It is confirmed that dolphins can become pregnant while lactating and that the approximate time of conception is identifiable in milk profiles, illustrating the potential application of this method in pregnancy detection and reproductive monitoring.[1]


  1. Concentrations of progesterone in milk from bottlenose dolphins during different reproductive states. West, K.L., Atkinson, S., Carmichael, M.J., Sweeney, J.C., Krames, B., Krames, J. Gen. Comp. Endocrinol. (2000) [Pubmed]
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