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Right Whales' Decline

Researchers plan to conduct a genetic analysis to better understand why the population size of North American right whales is in decline, CBC reports.

Right whales, which can be found off the coasts of Canada and the US, are endangered and continue to experience a decrease in population size despite conservation efforts and have an estimated population size of 350 individuals, according to CBC.

Timothy Frasier from Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, tells it that he and his colleagues plan to photograph right whales to document their age, size, and skin health as well as to collect samples for genetic analysis to search for any factors that may be affecting the whales' ability to breed. He notes that inbreeding — CBC adds that there are fewer than 100 breeding female right whales left — is suspected to be a factor in their population decline.

"The ultimate goal is to make right whale conservation more effective and more efficient," Frasier tells CBC. "By the end of this project, whatever our results are, they will have the most approximate impact on the government policy and procedures in both countries."

The study, CBC notes, is funded by Genome Atlantic and the New England Aquarium in Boston.

The Scan

Booster for At-Risk

The New York Times reports that the US Food and Drug Administration has authorized a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for people over 65 or at increased risk.

Preprints OK to Mention Again

Nature News reports the Australian Research Council has changed its new policy and now allows preprints to be cited in grant applications.

Hundreds of Millions More to Share

The US plans to purchase and donate 500 million additional SARS-CoV-2 vaccine doses, according to the Washington Post.

Nature Papers Examine Molecular Program Differences Influencing Neural Cells, Population History of Polynesia

In Nature this week: changes in molecular program during embryonic development leads to different neural cell types, and more.