Cape Verde Expedition Report

10th Jun 2011 A summary report from the third IWDG research expedition to Cape Verde is available to download.

Cape Verde 2011 Expedition Report:

Download Report (PDF 2.8MB)

The lab works are about to commence the results from which will contribute towards a GMIT-based PhD while contributing to an international project on humpback whale population ecology. Molecular genetic analyses and stable isotope analyses will be used to investigate to which high latitude feeding grounds the Cape Verde humpbacks belong. Genetic analyses may be used to estimate the population size (the current estimate stands at just 99 whales for the Cape Verde breeding population), to see how isolated these whales are from other breeding populations and also in a 'mark-recapture' analysis using genetic tagging.

Genetic tagging does not use physical tagging, but exploits the fact that each animal has a unique genotype (genetic barcode) and may have been biopsied in more than one location. By comparing DNA from these biopsies and those in a large database with 7500 biopsies from the entire North Atlantic (West Indies, Gulf of Maine, Greenland, Iceland, Norway and Ireland collected between 1988 and 2011) matches may be found in the same way as photo ID matches are used to track movements. The benefit of genetic tagging over photo ID, is that the sample can be reanalysed as techniques in genetics improve to derive information on familial relationships and even mating strategies.

This research puts IWDG on a par with leading world researchers in humpback whale conservation biology and has strangthened our collaboration with colleagues from all over the Atlantic. Plans are already afoot to carry out a fourth expedition to Cape Verde next year. Many thanks to the generous donations from IWDG members which put us in a position to lever funds from Island Foundation. Without their generosity, this expedition may not have happened.

Conor Ryan

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