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Whale Biopsy Collection

A team gathers skin samples from healthy humpback whales in waters off the Western Antarctic Peninsula. Researchers obtain samples by releasing a biopsy-collecting dart, which bounces off the whales’ skin and into the water. The team then retrieves the floating dart and brings it back to a lab for analysis.

A new study by scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), Duke University, and the University of California, Santa Cruz, shows that monitoring whales’ skin microbes could offer a way to assess their health and nutrition over different seasons and environmental circumstances, and also to detect how they are affected by climate change and human-caused impacts on ocean ecosystems.

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Video: David W. Johnston, Duke University. The research was authorized by NOAA permit #808-735 and Antarctic Conservation Act permit #2009-14.

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