Changes in blood testosterone and progesterone concentrations of the North Atlantic minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) during the feeding season
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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An opportunity to study seasonal changes of sex hormones in the North Atlantic minke whale (common minke whale, Balaenoptera acutorostrata) arose when we obtained access to fresh postmortem blood samples from 104 females and 83 males. The whales were caught in the North Atlantic during May–September 1992–1995. Serum progesterone (P) and testosterone (T) concentrations were measured and compared with anatomical data. The frequency distribution of female serum P values showed two clusters, one consisting mainly of immature animals and the second of pregnant ones, with mean serum values of about 0.49 ± 0.04 (SE) and 44.2 ± 2.84 nmol·L–1, respectively. The frequency distribution of male serum T did not show any group-specific distribution during the hunting season. The mean serum T value for the males was 0.63 ± 0.13 nmol·L–1. Contrary to earlier reports on the Antarctic minke whale (Balaenoptera bonaerensis), serum T values rose during the hunting season in mature males (p < 0.0001). Serum P values in immature females increased during the season (p = 0.015). This increase agrees with the predominantly annual reproduction cycle of minke whales. Blood sex hormone measurements seem to be useful for detecting cyclic changes and pregnancy of minke whales.