Right whale skeleton, DNA headed to Canada’s largest museum – Prince Edward Island

Scientists at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto are hoping that some good can come from three dead North Atlantic right whales, towed to a beach on P.E.I. this summer. 

DNA samples from the whales are now in a research lab at the ROM and bones from one of the whales are being prepared to become part of the museum’s collection.

‘It has to have been the messiest and smelliest job I think I’ve ever done in my life.’
– Oliver Haddrath, DNA technician at the ROM

“We want to learn as much as possible and being such an endangered animal, it’s important that we actually study it,” said Oliver Haddrath, DNA technician at the ROM.

“While we’re not ourselves looking at it, by understanding the whales better, we’ll have a better understanding of how to avoid things like ship collisions.”

Oliver Haddrath called it the “messiest and smelliest job” he has ever done. (Submitted by Oliver Haddrath and Jacqueline Miller)

The ROM approached Fisheries and Oceans Canada when it heard the three dead right whales were being brought to shore. 

A crew from the museum and from Research Castings International (RCI) then raced to the scene on a remote beach in western P.E.I., where the necropsies were already underway.

“Luckily when we got out there, the progress through the necropsies was extremely rapid,” said Jacqueline Miller, mammalogy technician at the ROM.

“They had done a lot of the base work for us that would have taken us the first few days. It was a great stroke of luck.”

The process of removing the flesh is called flensing, a term from the whaling industry. (Submitted by Oliver Haddrath and Jacqueline Miller)

With the necropsies complete, the ROM and RCI teams got to work.

“It has to have been the messiest and smelliest job I think I’ve ever done in my life,” said Haddrath, working on a whale carcass for the first time.


DEEP TROUBLE | Right whale in peril

After an unprecedented number of deaths this summer, CBC News is bringing you an in-depth look at the endangered North Atlantic right whale. This week, in a series called Deep Trouble, CBC explores the perils facing the right whales.


“Once you’re out there, the smell is so overwhelming, it’s everywhere,” added Miller.

“It’s messy, it’s oily, it takes a long time to get clean. You can smell it in your hotel room the next morning.”

The crew from the Royal Ontario Museum started their work as soon as the necropsies were completed, but with a good head start thanks to the…

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