Director of Animal Health Leigh Clayton works closely with the Marine Mammal team to manage the well being of the dolphins at the Aquarium. Leigh and her staff utilize ultrasounds to confirm pregnancy in dolphins. Blood hormone values (specifically progesterone) are also measured routinely and are often the first indication that an animal may be pregnant.
However, progesterone levels also increase during ovulation and may remain elevated for weeks after a normal ovulation. In addition, pseudopregnancy is possible in dolphins and hormone levels may remain elevated as if the animal is pregnant, but no fetus is present. Ultrasound is the only way to reliably confirm pregnancy. The gestational sac can be visualized as early as 4 weeks after conception and fetal heartbeat and skeletal structures can be seen as early as 6 weeks, though in our setting these are more typically seen at 8 weeks. When a pregnancy is suspected, the veterinarians and trainers work together to obtain ultrasound exams on the animals every 1-2 weeks.
Please continue visiting WaterLog for the latest updates from the Marine Mammal team as the Aquarium prepares for the births of two calves!