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Metabolite Content Profiling of Bottlenose Dolphin Exhaled Breath

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Changing ocean health and the potential impact on marine mammal health are gaining global attention. Direct health assessments of wild marine mammals, however, is inherently difficult. Breath analysis metabolomics is a very attractive assessment tool due to its noninvasive nature, but it is analytically challenging. It has never been attempted in cetaceans for comprehensive metabolite profiling. We have developed a method to reproducibly sample breath from small cetaceans, specifically Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). We describe the analysis workflow to profile exhaled breath metabolites and provide here a first library of volatile and nonvolatile compounds in cetacean exhaled breath. The described analytical methodology enabled us to document baseline compounds in exhaled breath of healthy animals and to study changes in metabolic content of dolphin breath with regard to a variety of factors. The method of breath analysis may provide a very valuable tool in future wildlife conservation efforts as well as deepen our understanding of marine mammals biology and physiology.

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