Text written by Livia Gavard and Fanny Dessard, who followed Dr Pierre Gallego to Mozambique to study humpback whales in collaboration with Underwater Africa.
Pierre, Manon, Fanny, Livia, and a volunteer, Diane, are currently in Tofo, Mozambique, where humpback whales aggregate every year to reproduce. Within the context of Pierre Gallego’s PhD project on humpback whales, the field work focuses on:
- Taking photo-identification (photo-ID) pictures of the unique pigmentation patterns on the ventral side of the fluke to identify as many individual whales as possible and follow the individuals over time.
Over 2 weeks, 14 individuals have been identified.
- Taking biopsies, which are small samples of skin and blubber which are used for studies on genetics, pollutants and stable isotopes. For instance, it is possible to determine the sex and age of the animals by analysing the DNA of the skin sample, which is not possible to determine from visual observations from the boat. Stable isotopes can be used to study the diet of the animals and the location of the feeding grounds off Antarctica.
Over 2 weeks, 27 biopsy samples have been collected, which as the total number of samples taken last season! So we are off to a good start to reach our goal of 60 biopsy by the end of September.