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URI student studying ‘whale snot’ for health clues

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A graduate student at the University of Rhode Island is hoping that his study of what he calls ‘‘whale snot’’ will yield important health information about the beluga whale population. Doctoral student Justin Richard, of North Stonington, Conn., wants to learn whether a whale’s gender, reproductive status, and other information can be determined from the cells and hormones they exhale. Scientists normally collect such information by firing a biopsy dart into the animal. He said the hope is to find noninvasive ways to learn about belugas.

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