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Dolphin DNA

September 21, 2010

Scientists are testing a new method for obtaining DNA samples from dolphins.


DNA from dolphins…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Obtaining DNA samples from whales and dolphins usually involves an invasive technique called a dart biopsy. But according to Georgetown University biologist Janet Mann, understanding their genetics is important.

JANET MANN (Georgetown University):
Genetics and getting DNA from animals is absolutely critical to both their conservation and understanding so many aspects of the biology and ecology of the animals.

She and her colleagues are testing a new method for sampling bottlenose dolphin DNA. She says like all cetaceans, they breathe through blowholes on the top of their heads. When they come to the surface, they exhale, which also expels a small amount of DNA.

We just have a long pole with a big petri dish attached and then you hold it out over their blowhole.

She says the method can be also be used on young animals, which are often missed in genetic studies. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.