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Secretion of anti-Müllerian hormone in the Florida manatee Trichechus manatus latirostris, with implications for assessing conservation status

December 2, 2011

Environmental and anthropogenic stressors can affect wildlife populations in a number of ways. For marine mammals (e.g. the Florida manatee Trichechus manatus latirostris), certain stressors or conservation risk factors have been identified, but sublethal effects have been very difficult to assess using traditional methods. The development of 'biomarkers' allows us to correlate effects, such as impaired reproduction, with possible causes. A recently developed biomarker (anti-Müllerian hormone, AMH) provides an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay of gonadal function. The study objective was to determine AMH levels in wild manatees. In total, 28 male and 17 female manatee serum samples were assayed. Animal demographics included collection date, body weight (kg) and total length (cm). In certain cases, age of individuals was also known. AMH levels ranged from 160 to 2451.85 ng ml-1 (mean = 844.65 ng ml-1) in males and 0.00 to 0.38 ng ml-1 (mean = 0.10 ng ml-1) in females. Linear regression analyses revealed a significant relationship between male AMH levels and body weight (R2 = 0.452; p < 0.001) and length (R2 = 0.338; p < 0.001). Due to the small sample size, regression analyses for female AMH and body weight and length were not significant. This represents the first report of AMH detection in a marine mammal. AMH levels in male manatees are the highest of any species observed to date, whereas levels in females are within reported ranges. Further studies will promote improved conservation decision by assessing AMH levels in the manatee as a function of various stressors including, but not limited to, nutritional status, serious injuries (e.g. watercraft collisions), exposure to biotoxins or contaminants, or disease.