[MARMAM] Humpback Whale Respiratory Microbiome

Michael Moore mmoore at whoi.edu
Tue Oct 10 16:42:09 PDT 2017

The following newly published paper is available Open Access at the link 
below (so no need to email for a pdf).


DOI: 10.1128/mSystems.00119-17


Extensive Core Microbiome in Drone-Captured Whale Blow Supports a 
Framework for Health Monitoring


Amy Apprill, Carolyn A. Miller, Michael J. Moore, John 
W. Durban, Holly Fearnbach, Lance G. Barrett-Lennard


The pulmonary system is a common site for bacterial infections in 
cetaceans, but very little is known about their respiratory microbiome. 
We used a small, unmanned hexacopter to collect exhaled breath 
condensate (blow) from two geographically distinct populations of 
apparently healthy humpback whales (/Megaptera novaeangliae/), sampled 
in the Massachusetts coastal waters off Cape Cod (/n/ = 17) and coastal 
waters around Vancouver Island (/n/ = 9). Bacterial and archaeal 
small-subunit rRNA genes were amplified and sequenced from blow samples, 
including many of sparse volume, as well as seawater and other controls, 
to characterize the associated microbial community. The blow microbiomes 
were distinct from the seawater microbiomes and included 25 
phylogenetically diverse bacteria common to all sampled whales. This 
core assemblage comprised on average 36% of the microbiome, making it 
one of the more consistent animal microbiomes studied to date. The 
closest phylogenetic relatives of 20 of these core microbes were 
previously detected in marine mammals, suggesting that this core 
microbiome assemblage is specialized for marine mammals and may indicate 
a healthy, noninfected pulmonary system. Pathogen screening was 
conducted on the microbiomes at the genus level, which showed that all 
blow and few seawater microbiomes contained relatives of bacterial 
pathogens; no known cetacean respiratory pathogens were detected in the 
blow. Overall, the discovery of a shared large core microbiome in 
humpback whales is an important advancement for health and disease 
monitoring of this species and of other large whales.

Further images etc available at:


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