Qualitative Analysis of a Luteinizing Hormone (LH) Assay in the Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)
IAAAM Archive
Mike Muraco1; Holley Muraco1; Dan Blasko1; Lanny Cornell1; Dennis Arn2; Mike Simon3
1The Mirage, Las Vegas, NV, USA; 2Desert Inn Animal Hospital, Las Vegas, NV, USA; 3Warm Springs Animal Hospital, Las Vegas, NV, USA


Accurately detecting ovulation is important to efficiently utilizing artificial insemination in bottlenose dolphins. Current reported methods for monitoring estrus in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) include ultrasound of ovarian follicles, estrogen assays, behavioral assessment, and REGU-MATE® (altrenogest) treatment. Luteinizing hormone (LH) assays provide a simpler alternative to these methods.

The use of ultrasound to track follicular development has been successful in detecting ovulation and resulting in pregnancy through artificial insemination.1 However, this process requires expensive equipment, training and expertise that may not be available at all facilities. Estrogen assays can show when an animal comes into estrus, but they do not pinpoint ovulation. This uncertainty can result in an increase in the number of days required to perform artificial insemination. Furthermore, in our experience, the same estrogen values cannot be used to accurately monitor multiple animals. Behavioral assessment and REGU-MATE® have been used to successfully identify the optimal time to place males and females together for mating but, like estrogen assays, they do not provide accurate timing of ovulation.

LH assays have been successfully used to precisely detect ovulation in elephants and canines.2,3,4 The Mirage Dolphin Habitat, in conjunction with the Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species (CRES) at The San Diego Zoo, has developed a way to detect LH in bottlenose dolphins. This method will allow easy, inexpensive, and precise monitoring of ovulation.


The authors are grateful to Dr. Barbara Durrant and the CRES staff for their time and expertise. We also thank Dr. Dennis Arn for his enthusiasm and time. None of this would be possible without the hard work and dedication of The Mirage Dolphin Trainers.


1.  Brook FM. 2001. Ultrasonographic Imaging of the Reproductive Tract of the Female Bottlenose Dolphin, Tursiops truncatus aduncas. Reproduction. 121. Pp. 419-428.

2.  Graham L. 2000. An Enzyme-Immunoassay for the Determination of Luteinizing Hormone in the Serum of African Elephants (Loxodonta africana). Technical Report. Disney's Animal Kingdom, Lake Buena Vista, FL.

3.  Reburn CJ. 2001. A Course in Basic Reproductive Endocrinology for Zoo Professionals. Disney's Animal Kingdom, Lake Buena Vista, FL.

4.  Root Kustritz MV. 2001. Use of Commercial Luteinizing Hormone and Progesterone Assay Kits in Canine Breeding Management. Recent Advances in Small Animal Reproduction. International Veterinary Information Service, Ithaca NY. A1221.0501.

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Mike Muraco

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