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Keywords:

  • biopsy darting;
  • wounding;
  • beluga;
  • Delphinapterus leucas;
  • DNA yield

Abstract

Different combinations of biopsy tip lengths (20, 25 mm) and diameters (5, 6, 7 mm), crossbow draw weights (23, 45, 68 kg) and distances (1.5–15 m) were tested on fresh beluga carcasses to determine factors affecting the success of biopsy retrieval and the extent of wounding. Tips with smaller diameters and longer lengths were found to be more likely to retrieve a skin sample, while the draw weight of the crossbow had a significant effect on the severity of the wound. The samples obtained from all biopsy darts tested yielded sufficient amounts of DNA for genetic analysis (20–109 μg) with the highest yield coming from the germinativum spinosum layer. For beluga whales we recommend using a tip of 5 mm in diameter, 25 mm in length, and a draw weight of 23 kg at close range.