Beluga Pregnancy Tests: Data Collection Complete!

The fourth and final collection of biopsies to determine the proportion of pregnant female belugas has just come to an end. It’s been another very productive season. In fact, the best one since the project began in 2013. In three weeks, 15 forays and nearly 200 hours aboard the Bleuvet, 75 samples were collected.

A total of 211 samples have been collected since the beginning of the project. These samples will allow our colleague Véronique Lesage (researcher at MLI-DFO) to answer a simple but very important question: is the pregnancy rate in St. Lawrence belugas “normal”? By measuring the levels of progesterone, a hormone produced by the ovaries and detectable in the belugas’ fat, researchers can differentiate pregnant and non-pregnant females. The answer to this question will allow us to better orient our research to understand the causes of the decline observed in the St. Lawrence beluga population.

During this intensive field effort, the team aboard the Bleuvet has filled many a page of its observation log. Based on preliminary analysis of some 4,500 photographs taken throughout this project, several belugas in our family album have already been recognized. The samples will also be used in another ongoing study on the accumulation and effects of flame retardants on belugas.

To learn more:

Determining the proportion of pregnant female belugas with biopsies (1/2) (in French)
Determining the proportion of pregnant female belugas with biopsies (2/2) (in French)

Click on the map to navigate with the Bleuvet and discover the highlights of the week!

IDENTIFICATIONS OF THE WEEK

Hector – adoption initiated in 2016 by Les Cowboys Fringants and their fans;
Blanche – adopted in 2014 by the municipality of Tadoussac;
Athéna – adopted collectively since 2015;
Blanchon – adopted in 2016 by Yolande Simard Perrault;
Neige – adopted “solidarily” in 2014 by riverside municipalities of the St. Lawrence;
Miss Frontenac – adopted in 2008 by Fairmont Le Château Frontenac;
Pure Laine – adopted in 2014 by Cynthia Fish;

as well as DL9049, DL9046 and DL0311.

The complete list of identified belugas requires meticulous efforts to match individuals, which will be undertaken once the field season has come to a close.


BLV120820_1123Property of the GREMM and the St. Lawrence National Institute of Ecotoxicology, the Bleuvet is a research boat dedicated to the research program on St. Lawrence belugas. Managed by GREMM scientific director Robert Michaud, the Bleuvet crew is composed of Michel Moisan, Tim Perrero and Simon Moisan.

Field Notes - 30/9/2016

Équipe du GREMM

Led by scientific director Robert Michaud, the research team of the Group for Research and Education on Marine Mammals (GREMM) studies St. Lawrence beluga whales and large rorquals (humpback, blue and fin whales) at sea. The Bleuvet and the BpJAM leave the port of Tadoussac every morning to gather valuable information on the life of the whales of the St. Lawrence Estuary.

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