Kelly Patterson

Document Type

Internship Report

Publication Date

Fall 2016


Concerns regarding the health of all animals under human care have increased significantly over the past several years. Body condition scores serve as accepted measures of the overall health of several species of animals in agricultural and laboratory practices (e.g., Jefferies, 1961; Ulman-Cullere & Foltz, 1999), and can project the overall health of an animal, without removing it from the population (e.g. Edmonson et al., 1989). These scores are utilized in multiple marine mammal species (e.g., Clegg et al., 2015; Joblon et al., 2015; McKinney et al., 2014; Miller et al., 2012; Read, 1990), however little has been done to match clinically accepted health parameters with a dolphin body condition score. This project investigated quantitative methods of health alongside a body condition score system for Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) developed by Clegg, Borger-Turner, & Eskelinen in 2015. The results of this study indicate that body condition score alters with some blood parameters that indicate nutritional state in bottlenose dolphins. Total protein, alkaline phosphatase, BUN/Creatinine, and serum iron had relationships with body condition score. However, the blood parameters that indicate critical illness, such as white blood cell count, may alter too quickly to correlate with body condition score across all age classes. Additionally, investigation of behavior states and white blood cell and cortisol indicated that the observations of trained staff are useful in detecting critical illness in bottlenose dolphins.


Division: MBE

MPS Track: MMS

Location: Dolphins Plus Oceanside/Dolphins Plus Bayside

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