Publications by authors named "Sophie Brasseur"

18 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Reconstructing the diet, trophic level and migration pattern of mysticete whales based on baleen isotopic composition.

R Soc Open Sci 2021 Dec 8;8(12):210949. Epub 2021 Dec 8.

Department of Marine Microbiology and Biogeochemistry, NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, PO Box 59, Den Hoorn 1790AB, The Netherlands.

Baleen from mysticete whales is a well-preserved proteinaceous material that can be used to identify migrations and feeding habits for species whose migration pathways are unknown. Analysis of δC and δN values from bulk baleen have been used to infer migration patterns for individuals. However, this approach has fallen short of identifying migrations between regions as it is difficult to determine variations in isotopic shifts without temporal sampling of prey items. Here, we apply analysis of δN values of amino acids to five baleen plates belonging to three species, revealing novel insights on trophic position, metabolic state and migration between regions. Humpback and minke whales had higher reconstructed trophic levels than fin whales (3.7-3.8 versus 3-3.2, respectively) as expected due to different feeding specialization. Isotopic niche areas between baleen minima and maxima were well separated, indicating regional resource use for individuals during migration that aligned with isotopic gradients in Atlantic Ocean particulate organic matter. Phenylanine δN values confirmed regional separation between the niche areas for two fin whales as migrations occurred and elevated glycine and threonine δN values suggested physiological changes due to fasting. Simultaneous resolution of trophic level and physiological changes allow for identification of regional migrations in mysticetes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.210949DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8652277PMC
December 2021

Counting using deep learning regression gives value to ecological surveys.

Sci Rep 2021 12 1;11(1):23209. Epub 2021 Dec 1.

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), 1950, Sion, Switzerland.

Many ecological studies rely on count data and involve manual counting of objects of interest, which is time-consuming and especially disadvantageous when time in the field or lab is limited. However, an increasing number of works uses digital imagery, which opens opportunities to automatise counting tasks. In this study, we use machine learning to automate counting objects of interest without the need to label individual objects. By leveraging already existing image-level annotations, this approach can also give value to historical data that were collected and annotated over longer time series (typical for many ecological studies), without the aim of deep learning applications. We demonstrate deep learning regression on two fundamentally different counting tasks: (i) daily growth rings from microscopic images of fish otolith (i.e., hearing stone) and (ii) hauled out seals from highly variable aerial imagery. In the otolith images, our deep learning-based regressor yields an RMSE of 3.40 day-rings and an [Formula: see text] of 0.92. Initial performance in the seal images is lower (RMSE of 23.46 seals and [Formula: see text] of 0.72), which can be attributed to a lack of images with a high number of seals in the initial training set, compared to the test set. We then show how to improve performance substantially (RMSE of 19.03 seals and [Formula: see text] of 0.77) by carefully selecting and relabelling just 100 additional training images based on initial model prediction discrepancy. The regression-based approach used here returns accurate counts ([Formula: see text] of 0.92 and 0.77 for the rings and seals, respectively), directly usable in ecological research.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-02387-9DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8636638PMC
December 2021

Individual-Level Memory Is Sufficient to Create Spatial Segregation among Neighboring Colonies of Central Place Foragers.

Am Nat 2021 08 24;198(2):E37-E52. Epub 2021 Jun 24.

AbstractCentral place foragers often segregate in space, even without signs of direct agonistic interactions. Using parsimonious individual-based simulations, we show that for species with spatial cognitive abilities, individual-level memory of resource availability can be sufficient to cause spatial segregation in the foraging ranges of colonial animals. The shapes of the foraging distributions are governed by commuting costs, the emerging distribution of depleted resources, and the fidelity of foragers to their colonies. When colony fidelity is weak and foragers can easily switch to colonies located closer to favorable foraging grounds, this leads to space partitioning with equidistant borders between neighboring colonies. In contrast, when colony fidelity is strong-for example, because larger colonies provide safety in numbers or individuals are unable to leave-it can create a regional imbalance between resource requirements and resource availability. This leads to nontrivial space-use patterns that propagate through the landscape. Interestingly, while better spatial memory creates more defined boundaries between neighboring colonies, it can lower the average intake rate of the population, suggesting a potential trade-off between an individual's attempt for increased intake and population growth rates.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/715014DOI Listing
August 2021

BRUCELLA PINNIPEDIALIS IN GREY SEALS ( HALICHOERUS GRYPUS) AND HARBOR SEALS ( PHOCA VITULINA) IN THE NETHERLANDS.

J Wildl Dis 2018 07 26;54(3):439-449. Epub 2018 Apr 26.

1   Wageningen Bioveterinary Research of Wageningen University and Research (WBVR), Edelhertweg 15, 8200 AB Lelystad, the Netherlands.

Brucellosis is a zoonotic disease with terrestrial or marine wildlife animals as potential reservoirs for the disease in livestock and human populations. The primary aim of this study was to assess the presence of Brucella pinnipedialis in marine mammals living along the Dutch coast and to observe a possible correlation between the presence of B. pinnipedialis and accompanying pathology found in infected animals. The overall prevalence of Brucella spp. antibodies in sera from healthy wild grey seals ( Halichoerus grypus; n=11) and harbor seals ( Phoca vitulina; n=40), collected between 2007 and 2013 ranged from 25% to 43%. Additionally, tissue samples of harbor seals collected along the Dutch shores between 2009 and 2012, were tested for the presence of Brucella spp. In total, 77% (30/39) seals were found to be positive for Brucella by IS 711 real-time PCR in one or more tissue samples, including pulmonary nematodes. Viable Brucella was cultured from 40% (12/30) real-time PCR-positive seals, and was isolated from liver, lung, pulmonary lymph node, pulmonary nematode, or spleen, but not from any PCR-negative seals. Tissue samples from lung and pulmonary lymph nodes were the main source of viable Brucella bacteria. All isolates were typed as B. pinnipedialis by multiple-locus variable number of tandem repeats analysis-16 clustering and matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry, and of sequence type ST25 by multilocus sequence typing analysis. No correlation was observed between Brucella infection and pathology. This report displays the isolation and identification of B. pinnipedialis in marine mammals in the Dutch part of the Atlantic Ocean.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.7589/2017-05-097DOI Listing
July 2018

Echoes from the past: Regional variations in recovery within a harbour seal population.

PLoS One 2018 3;13(1):e0189674. Epub 2018 Jan 3.

Wageningen Marine Research, Wageningen University & Research, Den Helder, the Netherlands.

Terrestrial and marine wildlife populations have been severely reduced by hunting, fishing and habitat destruction, especially in the last centuries. Although management regulations have led to the recovery of some populations, the underlying processes are not always well understood. This study uses a 40-year time series of counts of harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) in the Wadden Sea to study these processes, and demonstrates the influence of historical regional differences in management regimes on the recovery of this population. While the Wadden Sea is considered one ecologically coupled zone, with a distinct harbour seal population, the area is divided into four geo-political regions i.e. the Netherlands, Lower Saxony including Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein and Denmark. Gradually, seal hunting was banned between 1962 and 1977 in the different regions. Counts of moulting harbour seals and pup counts, obtained during aerial surveys between 1974 and 2014, show a population growth from approximately 4500 to 39,000 individuals. Population growth models were developed to assess if population growth differed between regions, taking into account two Phocine Distemper Virus (PDV) epizootics, in 1988 and 2002 which seriously affected the population. After a slow start prior to the first epizootic, the overall population grew exponentially at rates close to assumed maximum rates of increase in a harbour seal population. Recently, growth slowed down, potentially indicative of approaching carrying capacity. Regional differences in growth rates were demonstrated, with the highest recovery in Netherlands after the first PDV epizootic (i.e. 17.9%), suggesting that growth was fuelled by migration from the other regions, where growth remained at or below the intrinsic growth rate (13%). The seals' distribution changed, and although the proportion of seals counted in the German regions declined, they remained by far the most important pupping region, with approximately 70% of all pups being born there. It is hypothesised that differences in hunting regime, preceding the protection in the 1960's and 1970's, created unbalance in the distribution of breeding females throughout the Wadden Sea, which prevailed for decades. Breeding site fidelity promoted the growth in pup numbers at less affected breeding sites, while recolonisation of new breeding areas would be suppressed by the philopatry displayed by the animals born there. This study shows that for long-lived species, variable management regimes in this case hunting regulations, across a species' range can drive population dynamics for several generations.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0189674PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5751996PMC
February 2018

Seroprevalence of Antibodies against Seal Influenza A(H10N7) Virus in Harbor Seals and Gray Seals from the Netherlands.

PLoS One 2015 14;10(12):e0144899. Epub 2015 Dec 14.

Department of Viroscience, Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

In the spring and summer 2014, an outbreak of seal influenza A(H10N7) virus infection occurred among harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) off the coasts of Sweden and Denmark. This virus subsequently spread to harbor seals off the coasts of Germany and the Netherlands. While thousands of seals were reported dead in Sweden, Denmark and Germany, only a limited number of seals were found dead in the Netherlands. To determine the extent of exposure of seals in the Netherlands to influenza A/H10N7 virus, we measured specific antibody titers in serum samples from live-captured seals and seals admitted for rehabilitation in the Netherlands by use of a hemagglutination inhibition assay and an ELISA. In harbor seals in 2015, antibodies against seal influenza A(H10N7) virus were detected in 41% (32 out of 78) pups, 10% (5 out of 52) weaners, and 58% (7 out of 12) subadults or adults. In gray seals (Halichoerus grypus) in 2015, specific antibodies were not found in the pups (n = 26), but in 26% (5 out of 19) of the older animals. These findings indicate that, despite apparent low mortality, infection with seal influenza A(H10N7) virus was geographically widespread and also occurred in grey seals.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0144899PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4684379PMC
August 2016

Mapping Underwater Sound in the Dutch Part of the North Sea.

Adv Exp Med Biol 2016 ;875:1001-6

Acoustics and Sonar Group, Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), The Hague, JG, 2509, The Netherlands.

The European Union requires member states to achieve or maintain good environmental status for their marine territorial waters and explicitly mentions potentially adverse effects of underwater sound. In this study, we focused on producing maps of underwater sound from various natural and anthropogenic origins in the Dutch North Sea. The source properties and sound propagation are simulated by mathematical methods. These maps could be used to assess and predict large-scale effects on behavior and distribution of underwater marine life and therefore become a valuable tool in assessing and managing the impact of underwater sound on marine life.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4939-2981-8_124DOI Listing
June 2016

Estimating the spatial position of marine mammals based on digital camera recordings.

Ecol Evol 2015 Feb 8;5(3):578-89. Epub 2015 Jan 8.

IMARES Wageningen UR Den Burg, the Netherlands ; Department of Aquatic Ecology & Water Quality Management, Wageningen University Wageningen, the Netherlands.

Estimating the spatial position of organisms is essential to quantify interactions between the organism and the characteristics of its surroundings, for example, predator-prey interactions, habitat selection, and social associations. Because marine mammals spend most of their time under water and may appear at the surface only briefly, determining their exact geographic location can be challenging. Here, we developed a photogrammetric method to accurately estimate the spatial position of marine mammals or birds at the sea surface. Digital recordings containing landscape features with known geographic coordinates can be used to estimate the distance and bearing of each sighting relative to the observation point. The method can correct for frame rotation, estimates pixel size based on the reference points, and can be applied to scenarios with and without a visible horizon. A set of R functions was written to process the images and obtain accurate geographic coordinates for each sighting. The method is applied to estimate the spatiotemporal fine-scale distribution of harbour porpoises in a tidal inlet. Video recordings of harbour porpoises were made from land, using a standard digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera, positioned at a height of 9.59 m above mean sea level. Porpoises were detected up to a distance of ∽3136 m (mean 596 m), with a mean location error of 12 m. The method presented here allows for multiple detections of different individuals within a single video frame and for tracking movements of individuals based on repeated sightings. In comparison with traditional methods, this method only requires a digital camera to provide accurate location estimates. It especially has great potential in regions with ample data on local (a)biotic conditions, to help resolve functional mechanisms underlying habitat selection and other behaviors in marine mammals in coastal areas.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ece3.1353DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4328763PMC
February 2015

The Profile of Emotional Competence (PEC): development and validation of a self-reported measure that fits dimensions of emotional competence theory.

PLoS One 2013 6;8(5):e62635. Epub 2013 May 6.

Department of Education and Technology, University of Namur, Namur, Belgium.

Emotional Competence (EC), which refers to individual differences in the identification, understanding, expression, regulation and use of one's own emotions and those of others, has been found to be an important predictor of individuals' adaptation to their environment. Higher EC is associated with greater happiness, better mental and physical health, more satisfying social and marital relationships and greater occupational success. While it is well-known that EC (as a whole) predicts a number of important outcomes, it is unclear so far which specific competency(ies) participate(s) in a given outcome. This is because no measure of EC distinctly measures each of the five core emotional competences, separately for one's own and others' emotions. This lack of information is problematic both theoretically (we do not understand the processes at stake) and practically (we cannot develop customized interventions). This paper aims to address this issue. We developed and validated in four steps a complete (albeit short: 50 items) self-reported measure of EC: the Profile of Emotional Competence. Analyses performed on a representative sample of 5676 subjects revealed promising psychometric properties. The internal consistency of scales and subscales alike was satisfying, factorial structure was as expected, and concurrent/discriminant validity was good.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0062635PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3646043PMC
December 2013

Quantifying the effect of habitat availability on species distributions.

J Anim Ecol 2013 Nov 2;82(6):1135-45. Epub 2013 Apr 2.

IMARES Wageningen UR, PO Box 167, 1790AD, Den Burg, The Netherlands; Department of Aquatic Ecology and Water quality Management, Wageningen UR, PO Box 47, 6700AA, Wageningen, the Netherlands.

1. If animals moved randomly in space, the use of different habitats would be proportional to their availability. Hence, deviations from proportionality between use and availability are considered the tell-tale sign of preference. This principle forms the basis for most habitat selection and species distribution models fitted to use-availability or count data (e.g. MaxEnt and Resource Selection Functions). 2. Yet, once an essential habitat type is sufficiently abundant to meet an individual's needs, increased availability of this habitat type may lead to a decrease in the use/availability ratio. Accordingly, habitat selection functions may estimate negative coefficients when habitats are superabundant, incorrectly suggesting an apparent avoidance. Furthermore, not accounting for the effects of availability on habitat use may lead to poor predictions, particularly when applied to habitats that differ considerably from those for which data have been collected. 3. Using simulations, we show that habitat use varies non-linearly with habitat availability, even when individuals follow simple movement rules to acquire food and avoid risk. The results show that the impact of availability strongly depends on the type of habitat (e.g. whether it is essential or substitutable) and how it interacts with the distribution and availability of other habitats. 4. We demonstrate the utility of a variety of existing and new methods that enable the influence of habitat availability to be explicitly estimated. Models that allow for non-linear effects (using b-spline smoothers) and interactions between environmental covariates defining habitats and measures of their availability were best able to capture simulated patterns of habitat use across a range of environments. 5. An appealing aspect of some of the methods we discuss is that the relative influence of availability is not defined a priori, but directly estimated by the model. This feature is likely to improve model prediction, hint at the mechanism of habitat selection, and may signpost habitats that are critical for the organism's fitness.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.12061DOI Listing
November 2013

Plastic ingestion by harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) in The Netherlands.

Mar Pollut Bull 2013 Feb 11;67(1-2):200-2. Epub 2012 Dec 11.

IMARES Wageningen UR., PO Box 167, 1790 AD Den Burg (Texel), The Netherlands.

Abundance of ingested debris by seals has been mentioned as a potential indicator of marine litter in the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). A sample of 107 stomachs, 100 intestines and 125 scats of harbour seals from the Netherlands was analysed for the presence of plastics. Incidence of plastic was 11% for stomachs, 1% for intestines, and 0% for scats. Younger animals, up to 3 years of age, were most affected. This is the first quantitative study of plastic ingestion by phocid seals. The observed level of incidence is of environmental concern, but is low in the sense of suitability of seals for MSFD monitoring purposes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2012.11.035DOI Listing
February 2013

Variation in European harbour seal immune response genes and susceptibility to phocine distemper virus (PDV).

Infect Genet Evol 2011 Oct 25;11(7):1616-23. Epub 2011 Jun 25.

Institute of Integrative and Comparative Biology, Faculty of Biological Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK.

Phocine distemper virus (PDV) has caused two mass mortalities of European harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) in recent decades. Levels of mortality varied considerably among European populations in both the 1988 and 2002 epidemics, with higher mortality in continental European populations in comparison to UK populations. High levels of genetic differentiation at neutral makers among seal populations allow for the possibility that there could be potential genetic differences at functional loci that may account for some of the variation in mortality. Recent genome sequencing of carnivore species and development of genomic tools have now made it possible to explore the possible contribution of variation in candidate genes from harbour seals in relation to the differential mortality patterns. We assessed variation in eight genes (CD46, IFNG, IL4, IL8, IL10, RARa, SLAM and TLR2) encoding key proteins involved in host cellular interactions with Morbilliviruses and the relationship of variants to disease status. This work constitutes the first genetic association study for Morbillivirus disease susceptibility in a non-model organism, and for a natural mortality event. We found no variation in harbour seals from across Europe in the protein coding domains of the viral receptors SLAM and CD46, but SNPs were present in SLAM intron 2. SNPs were also present in IL8 p2 and RARa exon 1. There was no significant association of SLAM or RARa polymorphisms with disease status implying no role of these genes in determining resistance to PDV induced mortality, that could be detected with the available samples and the small number of polymorphisms indentified. However there was significant differentiation of allele frequencies among populations. PDV and other morbilliviruses are important models for wildlife epidemiology, host switches and viral evolution. Despite a negative result in this case, full sequencing of pinniped and other 'non-model' carnivore genomes will help in refining understanding the role of host genetics in disease susceptibility for these viruses.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2011.06.002DOI Listing
October 2011

Earlier pupping in harbour seals, Phoca vitulina.

Biol Lett 2010 Dec 30;6(6):854-7. Epub 2010 Jun 30.

Institute for Marine Resources and Ecosystem Studies, IMARES, Texel, The Netherlands.

The annual reproductive cycle of most seal species is characterized by a tight synchrony of births. Typically, timing of birth shows little inter-annual variation. Here, however we show that harbour seals Phoca vitulina from the Wadden Sea (southeast North Sea) have shortened their yearly cycle, moving parturition to earlier dates since the early 1970s. Between 1974 and 2009, the birth date of harbour seals shifted on average by -0.71 d yr⁻¹, three and a half weeks (25 days) earlier, in the Dutch part of the Wadden Sea. Pup counts available for other parts of the Wadden Sea were analysed, showing a similar shift. To elucidate potential mechanism(s) for this shift in pupping phenology, possible changes in population demography, changes in maternal life-history traits and variations in environmental conditions were examined. It was deduced that the most likely mechanism was a shortening of embryonic diapause. We hypothesize that this could have been facilitated by an improved forage base, e.g. increase of small fishes, attributable to overfishing of large predator fishes and size-selective fisheries.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2010.0468DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3001384PMC
December 2010

The 1988 and 2002 phocine distemper virus epidemics in European harbour seals.

Dis Aquat Organ 2006 Jan;68(2):115-30

Swedish Museum of Natural History, Box 50007, 10405 Stockholm, Sweden.

We present new and revised data for the phocine distemper virus (PDV) epidemics that resulted in the deaths of more than 23 000 harbour seals Phoca vitulina in 1988 and 30,000 in 2002. On both occasions the epidemics started at the Danish island of Anholt in central Kattegat, and subsequently spread to adjacent colonies in a stepwise fashion. However, this pattern was not maintained throughout the epidemics and new centres of infection appeared far from infected populations on some occasions: in 1988 early positive cases were observed in the Irish Sea, and in 2002 the epidemic appeared in the Dutch Wadden Sea, 6 wk after the initiation of the outbreak at Anholt Island. Since the harbour seal is a rather sedentary species, such 'jumps' in the spread among colonies suggest that another vector species could have been involved. We discussed the role of sympatric species as disease vectors, and suggested that grey seal populations could act as reservoirs for PDV if infection rates in sympatric species are lower than in harbour seals. Alternatively, grey seals could act as subclinical infected carriers of the virus between Arctic and North Sea seal populations. Mixed colonies of grey and harbour seal colonies are found at all locations where the jumps occurred. It seems likely that grey seals, which show long-distance movements, contributed to the spread among regions. The harbour seal populations along the Norwegian coast and in the Baltic escaped both epidemics, which could be due either to genetic differences among harbour seal populations or to immunity. Catastrophic events such as repeated epidemics should be accounted for in future models and management strategies of wildlife populations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3354/dao068115DOI Listing
January 2006

Tissue distribution of perfluorinated chemicals in harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) from the Dutch Wadden Sea.

Environ Sci Technol 2005 Sep;39(18):6978-84

Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, Groenenborgerlaan 171, 2020 Antwerpen, Belgium.

Perfluorinated acids (PFAs) are today widely distributed in the environment, even in remote arctic areas. Recently, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) has been identified in marine mammals all over the world, but information on the compound-specific tissue distribution remains scarce. Furthermore, although longer perfluorinated carboxylic acids (PFCAs) are used in industry and were shown to cause severe toxic effects, still little is known on potential sources or their widespread distribution. In this study, we report for the first time on levels of longer chain PFCAs, together with some short chain PFAs, perfluorobutane sulfonate (PFBS) and perfluorobutanoate (PFBA), in liver, kidney, blubber, muscle, and spleen tissues of harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) from the Dutch Wadden Sea. PFOS was the predominant compound in all seal samples measured (ranging from 89 to 2724 ng/g wet weight); however, large variations between tissues were monitored. Although these are preliminary results, it is, to our knowledge, the first time that PFBS could be found at detectable concentrations (2.3 +/- 0.7 ng/g w wt) in environmental samples. PFBS was only detected in spleen tissue. PFCA levels were much lower than PFOS concentrations. The dominant PFCA in all tissues was PFNA (perfluorononanoic acid), and concentrations generally decreased in tissues for all other PFCA homologues with increasing chain length. No clear relationship between PFOS levels in liver and kidney was observed. Furthermore, hepatic PFDA (perfluorodecanoic acid) levels increased with increasing body length, but in kidney tissue, PFDA levels showed an inverse relationship with increasing body length. These data suggest large differences in tissue distribution and accumulation patterns of perfluorinated compounds in marine organisms.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/es050942+DOI Listing
September 2005

The immunocompetence handicap hypothesis in two sexually dimorphic pinniped species--is there a sex difference in immunity during early development?

Dev Comp Immunol 2003 Jun-Jul;27(6-7):629-37

NERC Sea Mammal Research Unit, Gatty Marine Laboratory, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife KY16 8LB, UK.

The 'immunocompetence handicap hypothesis' predicts that highly sexually dimorphic and polygynous species will exhibit sex differences in immunity. We tested this hypothesis in southern elephant and grey seals during their early development by measuring the following parameters: leucocyte counts, serum IgG levels, erythrocyte sedimentation rate and haematocrit. We failed to find any differences due to sex as assessed by the parameters investigated. Animals were sampled longitudinally during their development and there were significant age effects from birth to weaning in both species. Total and differential leucocyte counts and erythrocyte sedimentation rates increased just prior to weaning then decreased. Haematocrits declined whilst total circulating immunoglobulin G concentrations increased. Body temperatures remained constant throughout the postnatal period. Differences between the species were seen in total leucocyte counts and in polymorphonuclear cells and eosinophils. Southern elephant seals had higher concentrations than grey seals and total leucocyte counts in the former were among the highest reported for mammals.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/s0145-305x(03)00029-6DOI Listing
December 2003

Blood chemistry in southern elephant seal mothers and pups during lactation reveals no effect of handling.

Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol 2002 Oct;133(2):367-78

Alterra Institute, Marine and Coastal Zone Research, P.O. Box 167, 1790 AD Den Burg, The Netherlands.

Serum clinical chemistry parameters were examined in lactating southern elephant seal Mirounga leonina mothers and their pups from the declining Macquarie Island population. There were significant changes in serum values from 2 to 21 days postpartum in both nursing mothers (increase: inorganic phosphate; decrease: creatinine, potassium, chloride, cholesterol, total protein, albumin, globulin, aspartate aminotransferase, creatine kinase) and suckling pups (increase: inorganic phosphate, globulin, cholesterol; decrease: albumin, alkaline phosphatase, gammaglutamyl transferase; increase followed by decrease: triglycerides, iron). We found no evidence that changes were due to chronic stress effects caused by repeated chemical immobilisations (mothers) or physical restraint (pups): at late lactation, clinical chemistry values were similar for mother-pup pairs of a control group (not handled previously), moderate treatment group (previously handled twice) and high treatment group (previously handled three to four times). We were not able to detect differences in clinical chemistry values between mother-pup pairs distributed over two areas differing in the frequency of human visits. The clinical chemistry values presented here can serve as reference ranges to allow future comparison with other southern elephant seal populations to investigate factors, e.g. food limitation, suspected to be involved in population declines.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/s1095-6433(02)00169-1DOI Listing
October 2002
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