Steroid hormone extraction and quantification validation in Southern right whale (Eubalaena australis) blubber biopsy samples
Joanna L. Kershaw, Emma L. Carroll, Leigh Torres and Ailsa J. Hall
Despite an increasing understanding of the migratory movements and population structure of Southern right whales (Eubalaena australis), there is still little data to assess individual health, and by extension, population health and resilience to environmental and anthropogenic pressures. Data on the reproduction, health and energetic status from hormone profiles from individual animals can help to fill this gap. Preliminary results for the extraction and quantification of two steroid hormones, progesterone and cortisol, from blubber biopsy samples collected incidentally to skin sample collection in the Campbell Islands in 2014 are presented here. Cortisol extraction and quantification using a commercially available Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) was validated for this species. Measured cortisol concentrations were within the ranges of those measured in the blubber of other cetaceans studied to date. Measured progesterone concentrations were indicative of concentrations measured in immature or resting females of other cetacean species. However, these results require confirmation with further validation of the use of the commercially available progesterone ELISA trialled here, particularly in relation to sample storage conditions.