• sloughed skin;
  • cetacean;
  • DNA fingerprint

Abstract: Several species of cetaceans naturally slough visible quantities of skin. We have investigated the prospect of using this material as a viable alternative to the use of biopsy darts for the collection of samples for molecular analysis. Pieces of skin were collected from free-ranging individuals of three different species—the humpback (Megaptera novaeangliae), sperm (Physeter macrocephalus) and right whales (Eubalaena glacialis). DNA was extracted from 11 pieces of sloughed skin and DNA “fingerprint” profiles prepared. All samples contained DNA of both sufficient quality and quantity for genetic analysis. The applicability of this approach is discussed generally in relation to answering problems about the population structure and breeding systems of cetaceans.