Sunday, May 5, 2013

Catspaw's Fourth Calf

Catspaw has a new calf this season.  We only see Catspaw in the Bay of Fundy when she has a calf, the same as Wart who also never comes to the Bay unless she has a calf, so we look forward to seeing both of them this summer in the Bay.

This is Catspaw's fourth calf.  She has had calves in 2002, a female, 2005, a male, 2008, another male, and now one in 2013.  We don't know the sex of this calf yet, but because a small skin sample was taken from the calf while it was in the calving area, the sex of the calf will be known once the genetic material is analyzed.

The head of Catspaw.  The callosities or rough patches of skin, are used to identify individuals.  These rough patches of skin develop in the first six months and remain a reliable method to identify individuals throughout their lives.
The New England Aquarium right whale researchers are attempting to get skin samples from every calf.  The newborns are not individually recognizable because they have no callosities.  If they are not seen with their mothers after the callosities emerge, they can not be identified through their mothers except with the genetic fingerprinting.  This will hopefully help when juvenile whales are photographed and a match can not be found in the right whale catalogue.  Getting a skin sample from the juvenile and comparing it to calf samples can determine whose its mother is.  There is still a percentage of the right whale population who have not been genetically profiled so it makes it difficult to work backwards to find the parents.

Catspaw has had an interesting sighting history, identified in 1986, seen for two years and then disappearing from the camera lens until 2000.  She was put on the probably dead shelf but was happily "resurrected" and went on to become a mother.