Article

Longitudinal study of northern fur seal (Callorhinus ursinus) hematology

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Abstract

Although the causes have not been specified yet, wild populations of northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) have been decreasing, which is why conservation techniques such as captive breeding and health maintenance should be established. Hematological parameters can be used to maintain the health status of northern fur seals kept in captivity for artificial reproduction and public education. Year-round fluctuations of blood parameters have not been examined for northern fur seals due to the difficulties in obtaining serial blood samples from wild animals during the oceanic migration period from late autumn to spring. In this study, blood samples were collected from four captive northern fur seals and analyzed monthly for more than three years to clarify the seasonal fluctuation patterns in 14 hematological parameters. Many hematological parameters seemed to be seasonal patterns: summer–autumn and winter–spring; leukocyte-related parameters were higher in summer and autumn than in winter and spring; erythrocyte-related parameters were lower in summer and autumn than in winter and spring. Significant seasonal differences in nine of the 14 parameters were observed using a generalized linear mixed model (GLMM) analysis. These results have improved our understanding of the seasonal patterns of hematological characteristics in the northern fur seal and can contribute to the health care of protected or captive northern fur seals.

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