Genetic analysis reveals the relationship between individual right whales. We use this information to create right whale family trees, assess current and historic population size, and determine the population’s resistance to disease.
Since launching our project in 1988, we have collected genetic samples from more than 70 percent of the right whale population, making the right whale one of the most completely cataloged species of marine mammal in the world.
Scientists collect samples from North Atlantic right whales with a biopsy dart. The dart, shot from a crossbow, collects a small sample of skin, flesh and blubber from the whale. We extract DNA from these samples, and also test for protein, hormone and contaminant levels. We use the genetic data to construct family trees and individual life histories for as many right whales as possible.
Get to know a few of our favorite right whales by exploring their family trees and individual life histories.
With more than 200,000 photographs dating back to 1935, the North Atlantic Right Whale Photo-Identification Catalog is the most complete right whale identification resource available to researchers today.