Protein electrophoresis of serum samples from endangered, wild whooping cranes (Grus americana) was performed to help assess the health of the only self-sustaining, migratory population in North America. Serum samples from wild adult cranes (n = 22) were taken at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Texas, USA during winter. Wild juvenile cranes (n = 26) were sampled at Wood Buffalo National Park, Northwest Territories, Canada, in midsummer. All captive crane samples were acquired from the International Crane Foundation, Baraboo, WI, USA. Captive adult cranes (n = 30) were sampled during annual examinations, and archived serum samples from captive juvenile cranes (n = 19) were selected to match the estimated age of wild juveniles. Wild juveniles had significantly lower concentrations of all protein fractions than wild adults, except for prealbumin and γ globulins. All protein fraction concentrations for wild juveniles were significantly lower compared with captive juveniles, except for prealbumin and γ globulins, which were higher. Wild adults had significantly greater γ globulin concentrations than captive adults. Captive juveniles had significantly lower prealbumin and albumin concentrations and albumin : globulin ratios than captive adults. The higher γ globulin concentrations in wild versus captive cranes are likely because of increased antigenic exposure and immune stimulation. Protein fraction concentrations vary significantly with age and natural history in this species. Reference intervals for serum protein electrophoresis results from captive adult whooping cranes are provided in this study.
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