Project Annotation

The proposed project is focused on the evolutionary genetics of southern right whale (Eubalaena australis). Using modern approaches of population genetics, we aim to get information about details of population structure, the role of migration and gene flow, drift and other factors of population biology of the species and using metabarcoding analyse whale faeces to study whale diet in nursery grounds. One part of the project is focused on fitness prediction among the populations not only with the help of neutral genetic markers, but also adaptive variation, like TLR genes. The use of matrilineal and biparental markers will be used for molecular identification of every individual, also it will enable us to study the level of phylopatry and areal behavior of population. Approaches of molecular ecology will also enable to study sex-biased gene flow and the reproductive contribution of particular individuals, which could have skewed distribution in males due to sperm competition. Results about the genetic structure and spatial ecology will be interpreted also considering paradigms of conservation genetics.

Sample collection and its effect on the whales

Samples are essential for the study because the project is based on DNA analyses. DNA can be isolated from various biological material, such as skin, bones, faeces, etc. However, for high-quality DNA, it is best to obtain fresh samples.

First, there are museums that exhibit whale skeletons or whale body parts. The problem with museum samples is that the DNA could be degraded by procedures used to conserve the specimen, or as a result of the age of the specimen. 

Another possibility is to obtain samples from sloughed whale skin, which can be sometimes be found on the sea surface as a result of moulting. These so-called non-invasive samples are collected in cooperation with comercial whale watchers. This scitizen science is a perfect way how to ensure samples for the project and also to educate tourists. 

However, the best sampling method is a biopsy. Owing to the quality of the sample and the high quality of isolated DNA, this is the most suitable method for this research. The scientific value of such sampling can be considerable when investigating sex-ratios, mating systems, paternity analyses, or effective population sizes. There are almost no behavioural effects from this method. In addition, there is no impact on fitness or reproduction. 

All the sample collection has been done in South Africa, permit nr. is RES2016/99, RES2017/89 and RES2018/81 (incl. 85). 

We appreciate any help from other scientics, museums, and other people who work with whales like people from conservation facilities and profesional whale watchers to donate or collect samples like sloughed skin or whale scat. If you can help or for more information, please contact me at petra.neveceralova@natur.cuni.cz


We would like to thank to following whale watching operators and institutions:


The team

Supervisors

Dr. Pavel Hulva, PhD
Molecular biologist, zoologist and conservation biologist
Associate Professor
Charles University in Prague
Czech Republic

Wilfred Chivell
Conservationists
Dyer Island Conservation Trust
South Africa
 

PhD Student

Petra Neveceralova, M.Sc.
Charles University in Prague 
Czech Republic

Consultant

Roman Vodicka, MVD, PhD
Head veterinarian and conservationist
Prague Zoo, Czech Republic

Cooperation

Dyer Island Conservation Trust
5 Geelbek St.
Kleinbaai, 7220, South Africa
https://www.dict.org.za/

Charles University in Prague
Faculty of Science
Department of Zoology
Vinicna 7
Prague, 128 00
Czech Republic
www.natur.cuni.cz/en

Dyer Island Conservation Trust
5 Geelbek St.
Kleinbaai, 7220
South Africa
www.dict.org.za