Thanks a lot, Sheyka!
|Blue whale earplug, extracted from a dead individual. Credit: Michelle Berman- Kowalewskic, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Santa Barbara, nationalgeographic.com|
Biography Of A Blue Whale, Told Through Ear Wax
by Ed Yong
A few years ago, Stephen Trumble contacted the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and asked if they had some earwax from a blue whale.
In 2007, a large ship travelling off the coast of California collided with a male blue whale, ending its life at the tender age of 12. It was one of three similar strikes that year. The animal’s 21 metre carcass washed up on the beach, and scientists from the local museum examined and dissected it with machetes and excavators. They collected several tissues and organs, including a 25-centimetre tube of earwax.
Earplugs are common to blues and other large whales like fins and humpbacks. They are similar to the ones in your ears, although obviously much bigger. Each is an oily build-up of wax and fats that accumulates through the whale’s life. “It looks like a long candlestick that’s been beat up a bit,” says Sascha Usenko, Trumble’s colleague at Baylor University. “It’s not appealing-looking.”