A Father's Day Family Tree

As Father's Day approaches, we've been thinking about one of our more successful whale fathers: Misstip (Catalog #1156). While it is very difficult with right whales to distinguish social actions from actual mating, we have been able to make some major advances in our ability to determine paternities among the whale population in the North Atlantic, like Misstip.

Misstip (foreground) has a white fluke tip, which makes it easier to tell him apart from other individuals such as the one in the background of this photo! Photo: Cyndi Browning

Misstip was first seen in 1981 and was given his name because he is missing both his fluke tips. He has sired five identified calves with four different females: Shenandoah (#1266), Stripe (#1135), Bugs (#1241), and Fermata (#1001), and is also grandfather to three identified grand-calves! And while father to five and grandfather to three doesn't sound all that impressive, keep in mind how small the total right whale population is—around 500 animals. In "human terms," as a percent of the total population, Misstip would be the father of around 70 million (1% of 7 billion)!

What a handsome father Misstip is! Photo: Moira Brown

This family tree of Misstip is based on DNA research, carried out by our colleagues at both Trent University in Ontario, Canada and St. Mary's University in Nova Scotia, Canada, where DNA gathered from small skin samples (much like a biopsy) is compared against a database of known genetic samples. This genetic database project was launched in 1988, and to date we've collected genetic material from more than 70 percent of the right whale population, making the database a key tool in our further understanding of the species as a whole, the relationships between animals, and the lineage of individuals like Misstip.

A right whale skin sample collected at sea must be preserved quickly yet properly! Photo: Monica Zani

For the DNA database and all the other ongoing right whale research projects, we want to say thanks to all the dads, and moms, and children, who have supported our work through their sponsorships.

And to Misstip and all the other dads, Happy Father's Day!

-Right Whale Research Team + Volunteers

Facebook Comments


Post a Comment