Non-Invasive sampling of Whales

Non-invasive Sampling of whales


When whales surface, the huge amount of air that they exhale contains some mucus and lung cells, this material is called whale “blow”. This project was a short term collaboration that aimed to determine whether or not it was possible to extract and amplify DNA from biological samples collected from whale blow. We used whale blow collected from humpback whales as a proof-of-concept test. Ultimately this project will focus on samples collected from the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale and will determine why this species is experiencing reproductive failure. By pairing genetic analysis with hormone analysis of the testosterone and progesterone content of whale blow, we will be able to track the reproductive status of individuals over time. This is a significant break through because prior to this technique it was not even possible to know if a whale was pregnant.

This project is headed up by Carolyn Hogg and Tracey Rogers at the University of New South Wales, Australia. More information on the research conducted by this group is available at:


Left: The innovative biological specimen collection device pioneered by Carolyn Hogg. Whale blow is trapped on a nylon stocking that is stretched across a cane embroidery ring as the whale exhales. The collection device is attached to 13-metre carbon fibre pole.

Can you extract and amplify DNA from Whale blow?