Whale snot sourced by a water proof drone is helping Australian researchers understand the whale population in greater detail.
The substance is rich with DNA, viruses and bacteria and can help scientists understand whales’ behaviour.
The drones fly close to the whale with an attached petri dish and get gather samples for the researcher to use.
According to a report by ABC in Australia, before the drone-sourced whale snot they had to rely on whales that were either killed or beached to learn more.
Macquarie University marine biologist Vanessa Pirotta is using a water-proof drone fitted with a petri dish that can hover over the blowholes of humpback whales as they embark on their yearly cruise along Australia’s east coast.
Dr Pirotta told ABC: “The drone is flown through the densest part of the whale snot, collecting the sample, and then the lid shuts and the drone is flown back to the boat and we’re happy scientists back on the boat.
“It sounds disgusting, but the snot is used by researchers to do health check-ups on the giant mammals and even to identify whales that are pregnant.”
She continued: “We can collect lung bacteria, which can indicate whether a lung is healthy or not. We can also collect viruses.”
The report goes on to detail how it may help researchers why Southern right whale numbers have bounced back on the west coast but remain stubbornly low in south-eastern Australia.