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Effects of capture stress on free-ranging, reproductively active male Weddell seals

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Author(s)

Robert Geoffrey Harcourt, Emma Turner, Ailsa Hall, Joseph R. Waas, Mark Hindell

School/Research organisations

Abstract

Physiological stress responses to capture may be an indicator of welfare challenges induced by animal handling. Simultaneously, blood chemistry changes induced by stress responses may confound experimental design by interacting with the biological parameters being measured. Cortisol elevation is a common indicator of stress responses in mammals and reproductive condition can profoundly influence endocrine response. We measured changes in blood cortisol and testosterone induced by handling reproductively active male Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) early and late in the breeding season. Weddell seals have the highest resting cortisol levels of all mammals yet showed a clear, prolonged elevation in cortisol in response to capture. Responses were similar when first caught and when caught a second time, later in the breeding season. Baseline testosterone levels declined over the breeding season but were not altered by capture. Administering a light dose of diazepam significantly ameliorated the cortisol response of handled animals without affecting testosterone levels. This may be an effective way of reducing acute capture stress responses. Male breeding success in years males were handled was no different to the years they were not, despite the acute capture response, suggesting no long-term impact of handling on male reproductive output.

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Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-154
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology
Volume196
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2010

    Research areas

  • Marine mammals, Leptonychotes weddellii, Handling stress, Cortisol, Antarctica, BOTTLE-NOSED DOLPHINS, BLUBBER FATTY-ACIDS, LEPTONYCHOTES-WEDDELLII, ELEPHANT SEALS, TURSIOPS-TRUNCATUS, HALICHOERUS-GRYPUS, PLASMA-CORTISOL, MCMURDO SOUND, WILD ANIMALS, GREY SEALS

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