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Varying concentrations of the highly conserved acute phase response protein, haptoglobin, can indicate changes to the health and disease status of mammals, including the Steller sea lion ( Eumetopias jubatus; SSL). To better understand factors relating to acute phase response in SSLs, circulating haptoglobin concentrations (Hp) were quantified in plasma collected from 1,272 individuals sampled near rookeries and haulouts off the coast of Alaska. We compared Hp in SSLs between sexes and among different age classes (young pups, young-of-the-year, yearlings, subadults, and adults) sampled within distinct regions in Alaska (Aleutian Islands, Gulf of Alaska, Southeast Alaska). Regional and age-related differences were observed, particularly in younger SSLs. No sex-related differences were detected. We identified weakly significant relationships between Hp and hematology measurements including white blood cell counts (WBC) and hematocrit (Hct) in young pups from the Aleutian Islands and Southeast Alaska. No relationship between Hp and body condition was found. Lastly, a nonlinear relationship of plasma Hp and whole blood total mercury concentrations (THg) was observed in SSLs from the endangered western distinct population segment in Alaska. These results demonstrated that regional variation in Hp, especially in younger SSLs, may reflect regional differences in health and circulating THg.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Journal of wildlife diseases
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