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Scientists develop harmless method for collecting dolphin DNA

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Scientists have developed a new and completely harmless method of collecting DNA from dolphins, according to a report by BBC News.

DNA testing on dolphins has long been an essential tool for biologists in the conservation of wild animals. However, methods for extracting the DNA can be harmful, and experts were keen to develop a more dolphin-friendly approach.

The most common method for obtaining the DNA involves firing a barbed dart into the dolphin's side, which then extracts a sample of the mammal's tissue when removed.

Australian and US scientists have found that collecting exhaled air and saliva from a dolphin's blow hole produces an equally useful DNA sample, and is a much less invasive procedure than so-called 'dart biopsying.'

As mammals, dolphins get their oxygen from breathing in air, which they then exhale through a blow hole located on the top of their head. The air is expelled at speeds of up to 70 litres per second, and contains lung cells from which DNA can be extracted.

Janet Mann, professor of biology and psychology at Georgetown University, told BBC News of the important role that DNA samples play in the study of whales and dolphins.

"You can tell by looking at the DNA, their genetic diversity... It's really important in understanding what's happening to wild dolphins and whales," she said.

"They [the dolphins] breathe near our boats anyway so we hope we can get the fluid without stressing them. If you can get this kind of information without stressing them at all then it's golden," she added.

 

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