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Viruses 2018, 10(6), 300;

Virological Sampling of Inaccessible Wildlife with Drones

Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia
Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity, Charles Perkins Centre, School of Life and Environmental Sciences and Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
Heliguy Scientific Pty Ltd., Sydney, NSW 2204, Australia
Department of Molecular Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia
Westmead Institute for Medical Research, Centre for Virus Research, Westmead, NSW 2145, Australia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
The authors contributed equally to this paper.
Received: 12 May 2018 / Revised: 31 May 2018 / Accepted: 31 May 2018 / Published: 2 June 2018
(This article belongs to the Section Animal Viruses)
PDF [1749 KB, uploaded 2 June 2018]


There is growing interest in characterizing the viromes of diverse mammalian species, particularly in the context of disease emergence. However, little is known about virome diversity in aquatic mammals, in part due to difficulties in sampling. We characterized the virome of the exhaled breath (or blow) of the Eastern Australian humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae). To achieve an unbiased survey of virome diversity, a meta-transcriptomic analysis was performed on 19 pooled whale blow samples collected via a purpose-built Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV, or drone) approximately 3 km off the coast of Sydney, Australia during the 2017 winter annual northward migration from Antarctica to northern Australia. To our knowledge, this is the first time that UAVs have been used to sample viruses. Despite the relatively small number of animals surveyed in this initial study, we identified six novel virus species from five viral families. This work demonstrates the potential of UAVs in studies of virus disease, diversity, and evolution. View Full-Text
Keywords: whale; virome; drone; mammalian host; virosphere whale; virome; drone; mammalian host; virosphere

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Geoghegan, J.L.; Pirotta, V.; Harvey, E.; Smith, A.; Buchmann, J.P.; Ostrowski, M.; Eden, J.-S.; Harcourt, R.; Holmes, E.C. Virological Sampling of Inaccessible Wildlife with Drones. Viruses 2018, 10, 300.

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