News Round-Up

Using sound and environmental DNA to find an elusive, endangered whale


In an ongoing effort to detect endangered Bryde’s whales, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and MBARI have teamed up to deploy an Environmental Sample Processor (ESP) in the Gulf of Mexico. Researchers from NOAA will analyse environmental DNA (eDNA) collected by the ESP to see if Bryde’s whales can be detected. They will compare the eDNA results with data from an underwater sound-recording device that can capture the distinct calls of these elusive whales.

Bryde’s (pronounced “broodus”) whales are relatives of blue and humpback whales and are found in temperate and warm waters around the world. However, the subspecies of Bryde’s whales that lives in the Gulf of Mexico is one of the most endangered whales in the world, with fewer than 100 living individuals. It was not until 2014 that genetic testing showed that Gulf of Mexico Bryde’s whales were a separate subspecies from other Bryde’s whales. These whales face ongoing threats from oil and gas development, vessel strikes, increasing ocean noise, and entanglement in fishing gear. They were declared endangered by NOAA in 2019. MORE

Header image: Aerial view of a Bryde’s whale in the Gulf of Mexico. Image courtesy of NOAA; photograph taken under NOAA research permits #14450-05 and 21938. Credit: Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

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