Reproductive Success and Conservation Genetics of Humpback Whales in the North Pacific

EPA Grant Number: U915571
Title: Reproductive Success and Conservation Genetics of Humpback Whales in the North Pacific
Investigators: Cerchio, Salvatore
Institution: University of Michigan
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: August 1, 1999 through August 1, 2002
Project Amount: $98,148
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (1999) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Biology/Life Sciences , Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Zoology


In this research project, genetic markers will be used to assess the distribution of male reproductive success (RS), estimate the effective population size, and evaluate the genetic structure and diversity of a relatively small, isolated population of humpback whales that breeds around the Islas Revillagigedos, off the Pacific Coast of Mexico.


Small skin samples will be collected from individual whales using a standard biopsy dart that does no harm to the animal. Different individuals (from a population estimated at 1000) will be biopsied over the course of four field seasons (1997-2000), including mother-calf pairs and males (candidate fathers). DNA will be extracted from each sample and all individuals will be genotyped for 8 to 10 microsatellite loci, providing a unique genetic "fingerprint" similar to that used in forensic analyses. Comparison of mother and calf genotypes with all candidate male genotypes will reveal putative fathers, from which a distribution of male RS will be constructed.

Expected Results:

The DNA sampling will provide information about the genetic structure and diversity of the humpback whales.

Supplemental Keywords:

humpback whale, baleen whale, mysticete, cetacean, mating system, paternity, male reproductive success, mate choice, polygyny, effective population size, microsatellite, multi-locus genotype, Mexico, Eastern Tropical Pacific., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, wildlife, Genetics, Zoology, Humpback whale, demographic data, population gentics, reproduction studies, bioassays, gentic testing, conservation genetics

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2000
  • 2001
  • Final