June 15, 2024

Rapid Assessment of Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) Body Condition: There’s an App for That


Leslie B. Hart, Kerry Wischusen, and Randall S. Wells


Abstract: Many recent studies have demonstrated that the health of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) can serve as an important indicator of hazards in the marine environment. A convenient and accurate way to get a “snapshot” of a dolphin’s health is to compare biological and physiological measurements to known reference intervals (RIs), which are ranges of values often considered normal or healthy. Measurements that fall above or below RI thresholds are usually considered abnormal and may indicate a health concern. Biological and physiological parameters of individuals sampled during field health assessments are often compared to RIs, but this is usually conducted post-fieldwork, following veterinary evaluation and biological sampling, which limits the ability to quickly diagnose problems and immediately perform more telling tests. The objective of this study was to develop a mobile application (app) that allowed instantaneous comparison of bottlenose dolphin morphometrics (i.e., length, mass, and girth) to previously published body condition RIs in situ. Furthermore, for bottlenose dolphins with mass and girth within normal ranges, the mobile app was programmed to compare field measurements to newly derived percentiles (25th, 50th, and 75th). The app was developed using MIT App Inventor 2© software. Functions were validated using historical and simulated data and were field tested during a bottlenose dolphin capture-release health assessment to evaluate feasibility for field use and to gain information for feature enhancements. An app that can rapidly evaluate body condition will significantly enhance veterinary evaluations of bottlenose dolphins (in the wild and under human care), as well as enhance epidemiologic studies of population health as coastal environments become increasingly stressed from pollution and other anthropogenic disturbances.
Key Words: cetacean, marine mammal, health, technology, length, mass, girth
Document Type: Research Article
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1578/AM.43.6.2017.635
Page Numbers: 635-644

Info SKU: Vol__43__Iss__6__Hart Category: