Acute phase protein haptoglobin in blood plasma samples of harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) of the Wadden Sea and of the isle Helgoland


Haptoglobin (Hp) which is synthesized in response to infection, inflammation, trauma or toxicological damage is known as a major acute phase protein in numerous species. Quantification of the circulating concentration of this protein can provide an objective measure of the health status, but there is a lack of investigations on harbour seals. We investigated the Hp concentration in samples of 123 seals (Phoca vitulina) from the German and Danish Wadden Sea to study physiological ranges of Hp levels. Hp levels between 2002, the end of the phocine distemper virus epidemic (PDV), and 2007 were considered, and Hp concentrations between animals of different sex, ages as well as living areas were compared. Furthermore, as a case study, six animals from the open sea isle Helgoland were investigated in 2006. Influences on the health status of the seal population e.g. the PDV epidemic were reflected by increased Hp levels in North Sea seals in 2002. The results of the Wadden Sea seals showed no significant age-, sex-, or geographical area-related differences. Interestingly, for the seals of the open sea isle Helgoland higher Hp values were measured compared to the Wadden Sea seals. The present study demonstrates that Hp can be used as a diagnostic tool to monitor the health status of harbour seals.
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