Untargeted plasma metabolomic analysis of wild bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) indicate protein degradation when in poorer health

Davina Derous* (Corresponding Author), Anna Kebke, Patricia A. Fair, Mark Styczynski, Gregory D. Bossart, Alex Douglas, David Lusseau* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

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Cumulative exposure to sub-lethal anthropogenic stressors can affect the health and reproduction of coastal cetaceans and hence their population viability. To date, we do not have a clear understanding of the notion of health for cetaceans in an ecological context; that is, how health status affects the ability of individuals to survive and reproduce. Here, we make use of a unique health-monitoring programme of estuarine bottlenose dolphins in South Carolina and Florida to determine de novo changes in biological pathways, using untargeted plasma metabolomics, depending on the health status of individuals obtained from veterinary screening. We found that individuals that were in a poor health state had lower circulating amino acids pointing towards increased involvement of gluconeogenesis (i.e., new formation of glucose). More mechanistic work is needed to disentangle the interconnection between health and energy metabolism in cetaceans to mediate potential metabolic constraints they may face during periods of stress.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100991
Number of pages9
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology - Part D: Genomics and Proteomics
Early online date2 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding was acquired by PAF, GBD, and DL. The investigation and data curation were done by PAF, GDB, MS, DL, AD, and DD. DD wrote the manuscript. DD analysed the data with input from AD, DL and MS. AK analysed the subset data for IRL as part of their B.Sc. thesis under supervision of DD. All authors contributed to the reviewing and editing of the manuscript.

This work was supported by US Office of Naval Research grants N000141512377, N0001411IP20081 and N00014110541.

Data Availability Statement

Supplementary data
Supplementary data to this article can be found online at https://doi.


  • cetaceans
  • health
  • disease
  • Metabolomics
  • Physiology
  • Bottlenose dolphins
  • metabolism


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