The North Atlantic right whale is one of the worlds most endangered and best-studied large whales. By combining 25 years of photographic, behavioral and genetic data, we have been able to start reconstructing this species’ family tree through the use of a human genealogy program called Family Tree Maker (Version 11 ã 2003 MyFamily.com, Inc.). Family trees have been produced using two main sources of data: 1. mother/calf associations made over the past 25 years by photo-identification techniques described in this website and 2. Genetic profiles compiled by the Natural Resources DNA Profiling and Forensic Center of offspring, known mothers, and males of reproductive age used to draw inferences about paternity.
This program allows you to view genealogical information in a number of ways, however, descendent trees give the best overall picture of a particular right whale family.
Below are links to 4 descendent trees. Males and females in these trees aren’t depicted as the classical squares and circles, rather males are represented by blue squares and females pink. Individuals of unknown sex are represented by yellow squares. Double lines indicate paternities.
New England Aquarium
(Catalog No. 1142)
Kleenex was first identified in 1977 with a calf. Since then she has had a total of seven calves (of which the fathers are known for two), three “grand children” (of which the father is known for one), and two “great grand children.” Of her seven calves, Snotnose (Catalog # 1123) has been the only one to produce offspring of her own.
(Catalog No. 1266)
Shenandoah was first identified in 1982 with a calf. Since then she has also had a total of seven calves (of which the fathers are known for two). Shenandoah is an interesting case, as two of her calves, Catalog # 1267 and Catalog # 1803, were fathered by the same individual six years apart.
Shenandoah's family tree (pdf, 7.1mb)
New England Aquarium
(Catalog No. 1140)
Wart was first identified in 1981. Since then she has had a total of six calves, three of which have gone on to produce offspring of their own. One of Warts’ offspring is Shackleton, a whale that is up for adoption through the New England Aquarium's Right Whale Research Project
(Catalog No. 1156 )
Now that we are able to determine the fathers of calves, descendant trees can also be made based on the males in the population. Misstip is one of the most reproductively successful males that we have identified. He has had four offspring with three different females in the period from 1982 to 1995.
Misstip's family tree (pdf, 3.9mb)