Physiologic changes occurring in the thyroid in response to the estrous cycle have been noted in companion animals. However, in bottlenose dolphins, the influence of different reproductive states on thyroid morphology remains unclear. Sonography was used to evaluate the variations of thyroid morphology for nine consecutive estrous cycles of four sexually mature, female Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus). The estrous cycle was divided into two phases for evaluation: the follicular and luteal phases. To compare changes associated with sex, thyroid volumes were measured in the different phases during the estrous cycle of female dolphins and were compared to the ultrasound examinations of the four male dolphins measured over a 2-mo period. In males, there was no significant difference in thyroid volume during the study period (P > 0.05). The thyroid volume measured in combining all estrous cycle phases of the female dolphins was significantly larger than that measured in the male dolphins (P < 0.05). A difference in thyroid volume during the estrous cycle was observed, with the thyroid volume during the follicular phase significantly smaller (P < 0.05) than that of the luteal phase, and is possibly related to the influence of female sex steroids. Thyroid volume variability during estrus should, therefore, be taken into account when examining the thyroid gland of female dolphins.
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