Aging Whales: Evidence of Age

music
ambience: whale sounds

Marine researchers now believe that the Arctic Bowhead whale may live 180 years or longer making it the longest lived mammal on earth. Back in the early 1990’s, biologists weren’t sure whether to trust these estimates, that is, until they stumbled on an important clue. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Jeffery Bada is a Professor of Marine Chemistry at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at La Jolla, California.

“During the annual harvest by the local Inuit hunters, the biologists that were observing this found that there were stone harpoons imbedded in some of these whales. And these stone harpoons were no longer used by the local hunters after about 1870. Stone harpoons in a whale that was killed in the 90’s implies that it is over a hundred years old, and this provided independent confirmation that we indeed were onto something really interesting.”

What proved equally as interesting to Jeffrey Bada and the other researchers, was the fact that the oldest whales taken during the harvest were all males.

“I don’t think it necessarily implies that the males of the species live longer than the females. It has more to do with their behavior. These hundred year plus old whales were survivors of the great slaughter of whales that took place in the late nineteenth century. And males in this species of Bowheads, tend to be solitary animals, where as the females group together in these big pods of whales, and as a result, they were probably more easily hunted. It may be that the solitary males survived, whereas the females were more heavily exploited.”

We’ll hear more about the long-lived Bowhead whales in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation.

music

Aging Whales: Evidence of Age

Marine researchers now have evidence that Bowhead whales may be the longest living mammals on earth.
Air Date:04/19/2010
Scientist:
Transcript:

music
ambience: whale sounds

Marine researchers now believe that the Arctic Bowhead whale may live 180 years or longer making it the longest lived mammal on earth. Back in the early 1990's, biologists weren't sure whether to trust these estimates, that is, until they stumbled on an important clue. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Jeffery Bada is a Professor of Marine Chemistry at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at La Jolla, California.

"During the annual harvest by the local Inuit hunters, the biologists that were observing this found that there were stone harpoons imbedded in some of these whales. And these stone harpoons were no longer used by the local hunters after about 1870. Stone harpoons in a whale that was killed in the 90's implies that it is over a hundred years old, and this provided independent confirmation that we indeed were onto something really interesting."

What proved equally as interesting to Jeffrey Bada and the other researchers, was the fact that the oldest whales taken during the harvest were all males.

"I don't think it necessarily implies that the males of the species live longer than the females. It has more to do with their behavior. These hundred year plus old whales were survivors of the great slaughter of whales that took place in the late nineteenth century. And males in this species of Bowheads, tend to be solitary animals, where as the females group together in these big pods of whales, and as a result, they were probably more easily hunted. It may be that the solitary males survived, whereas the females were more heavily exploited."

We'll hear more about the long-lived Bowhead whales in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation.

music