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Front. Mar. Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fmars.2018.00338

The utility of combining stable isotope and hormone analyses in marine megafauna research

  • 1National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, United States
  • 2Marine Mammal and Turtle Division, Southwest Fisheries Science Center (NOAA), United States
  • 3Protected Species Division, Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR), University of Hawaii at Manoa, United States
  • 4Division of Biological Sciences, University of California, San Diego, United States

Stable isotope and hormone analyses offer insight into the health, stress, nutrition, movements, and reproduction of individuals and populations. Such information can provide early warning signs or more in-depth details on the ecological and conservation status of marine megafauna. Stable isotope and hormone analyses have seen rapid development over the last two decades, and we briefly review established protocols and particular questions emphasized in the literature for each type of analysis in isolation. Little has been published utilizing both methods concurrently for marine megafauna yet there has been considerable effort on this front in seabird and terrestrial predator research fields. Using these other taxa as examples, we offer a few of the major research areas and questions we foresee as productive for the intersection of these two methods and discuss how they can inform marine megafauna conservation and management efforts. Three major research areas have utilized a combination of these two methods: (1) nutrition and health, (2) reproduction, and (3) life history. We identify a fourth area of research, examinations of evolutionary versus ecological drivers of behavior, that could also be well served by a combined stable isotope and hormone analyses approach. Each of these broad areas of research will require methodological developments. In particular, research is needed to enable the successful temporal alignment of these two analytical techniques.

Keywords: stable isotope, hormone, Mammal, turtle, cetacean, pinniped, marine

Received: 20 Dec 2017; Accepted: 04 Sep 2018.

Edited by:

Lars Bejder, Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, United States

Reviewed by:

Luis Cardona, University of Barcelona, Spain
Neil R. Loneragan, Murdoch University, Australia  

Copyright: © 2018 Fleming, Kellar, Allen and Kurle. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Alyson H. Fleming, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, United States,