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Specimens collected from pilot whale stranding for nist specimen bank. (General Development).

On Monday, July 29, 2002, a mass stranding of 57 long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas) occurred in Dennis, MA, on Cape Cod. Strandings of marine mammals occur regularly at Cape Cod; however, a stranding of this magnitude creates considerable activity among the scientific and volunteer personnel of the local stranding networks and aquariums, as well as tourists and the press. NIST scientists participated at the stranding site in the collection of tissue specimens from the whales for archival in the NIST National Biomonitoring Specimen Bank (NBSB). Since 1987, the NIST NBSB has participated in collecting and banking of tissues from marine mammals from U.S. waters of the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Pacific, including Alaska. The NBSB is designed to cryogenically preserve environmental and biological specimens over long periods of time (decades) for future retrospective analyses. A major activity of the NBSB is the National Marine Mammal Tissue Bank (NMMTB), established by Federal legislation in 1992, and maintained at the NBSB through partial support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the U.S. Geological Survey, Biological Resources Division.

The NIST scientists worked with scientists and volunteers from the New England Aquarium, the Northeast Stranding Network, the NMFS and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute to obtain samples for inclusion in the NMMTB. Tissue specimens were collected from 11 animals that died on the first day of the stranding. Three late-stage pregnancies were found among the 11 whales, and tissue specimens were also removed from the three fetuses for a total of 14 animals sampled. Tissue specimens for the NMMTB are collected and processed following rigid standard operating procedures designed to reduce any contamination to the tissue. After processing, the tissue samples were immediately frozen and eventually stored in liquid nitrogen vapor freezers at the NIST NBSB satellite facility located at the Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, S.C. These specimens, along with more than 2000 tissue specimens from over 715 other marine mammals already archived in the NBSB, will be used to determine not only the levels of contami nants in marine mammals but also the health of the marine environment. They will be available to scientists for evaluation for many years to come.

CONTACTS: Barbara Porter, (301) 975-6291; or Rebecca Pugh, (843) 762-8952.
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Article Details
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Publication:Journal of Research of the National Institute of Standards and Technology
Geographic Code:1U1MA
Date:Jan 1, 2003
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