In recent years, global threats to species biodiversity have become increasingly apparent in tandem with habitat destruction driven by human encroachments through settlements, agriculture and extractive industries, as well as disturbances to the natural stability of ecosystems linked to accelerating global climate change. Therefore, all forms of relevant data must be called upon to thoroughly document and centrally archive the enormous breath of morphological variability exhibited by extant species whose unique habitats are threatened with imminent collapse. Unique morphologies precisely mirror adaptive fits to a wide range of environmental niches, and these data must be readily accessible to global investigators if such knowledge is to be effectively mined in the pursuit of solutions addressing biodiversity loss.
Current IGHHP biodiversity studies include on-going investigation of the reproductive tact of the bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) in Arctic Alaska. This has entailed a morphological examination of the ovaries of immature and mature whales, including the structure of the ovaries in the various stages of the estrous cycle in order to better understand the population pressures that this species can withstand through aboriginal hunts, as well as emerging threats to the fragile ocean habitat of the bowhead whale with the advent of commercial extractive industries, such as petroleum prospecting.
George JC, Follmann E, Zeh J, Sousa M, Tarpley R, Suydam R, Horstmann-Dehn L. 2011. A new way to estimate the age of bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) using ovarian corpora counts. Can J Zool 89:840-852.
Tarpley, RJ, Hillmann, DJ, George, JC, Zeh, JE, Suydam, RA, Albert, TF. Morphometric correlates of the ovary and ovulatory corpora in the bowhead whale, Balaena mysticetus. Manuscript in preparation.