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Observations of Tissue Healing Around an Implanted “C” Tag in a Gray Whale

Observations of tissue healing around an implanted “C” tag in a Pacific Coast Feeding Group gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus)
  • Telemetry


Satellite-monitored radio tags that are embedded by remote darting into a whale's skin and underlying tissues, have been developed to monitor the location of whales for up to 14 months to provide data for conservation (Andrews et al., 2019; Hays et al., 2019; Mate & Harvey, 1983). These tags are termed “invasive” as they penetrate the integument of the animal and are often referred to as “implanted” tags. Some implanted tags have the electronic elements integrated with the attachments into a mostly subdermal rod and are collectively referred to as consolidated or “C” tags (Andrews et al., 2019). These tags have been attached to hundreds of mostly endangered whale species in recent years, including blue (Balaenoptera musculus), humpback (Megaptera novaeangliae), bowhead (Balaena mysticetus), fin (Balaenoptera physalus), North Atlantic and southern right (Eubalaena glacialis and E. australis), gray (Eschrichtius robustus), and sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) (Best et al., 2015; Irvine et al., 2014; Lagerquist et al., 2019; Mate et al., 2011, 2015; Robbins et al., 2013; Rosenbaum et al., 2014; Zerbini et al., 2016). While the data generated by these studies can be used to protect whale populations (from ship strikes, fisheries entanglements, mining, marine energy), and identify ranges, migration paths, and stock issues, the attachment of an implanted tag to an individual whale causes a wound and potential associated pain or discomfort (Moore et al., 2013). Thus, tagging studies need to consider possible detrimental health impacts of using some tag types to individual whales versus the conservation benefits to species. There are few studies on the long-term impact of invasive tagging on the health and survival of tagged whales due to the limited ability to track and examine individuals once tags cease to transmit, leading to a paucity of information on healing of tag associated wounds.

Goley, P.D., Calambokidis, J., Duignan, P., Gulland, F.M., Halaska, B., Lui, A., Martinez, M. and Mate, B., Observations of tissue healing around an implanted “C” tag in a Pacific Coast Feeding Group gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus). Marine Mammal Science.

Pádraig Duignan
Barbie Halaska
Maggie Martinez
tags, tagging, satellite tags, gray whales, implanted tags, C tag, "C" tag

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