biomedicalephemera: Greenland Whale [Bowhead Whale – Balaena…


Greenland Whale [Bowhead Whale – Balaena mysticetus] Breaching

The slow speed, shallow dives, and multi-unit groups that characterize bowhead whales made them a prime choice for whalers. Turns out, they aren’t huge fans of being harpooned. Whaling was one of the deadliest professions straight through to the early 20th century, because of events like this. Even if the whale was eventually subdued and slaughtered, it was often at the cost of multiple lives due to hypothermia, drowning, or blunt trauma.

Harpoon points found in whales that had been freshly killed or beached in the past three decades have shown that bowheads are probably the longest-lived mammals. In 2007, an ivory spear, produced just as the US was headed into its Civil War, was discovered deep in the blubber of a bowhead hunted by the Inupiat of Canada. The fact that she survived suggested that she was, at the least, a young adult at the time, and amino acid racimization of her corneal tissue showed that she was between 150 and 155 years of age, and she is likely 50 years younger than the oldest bowheads ever discovered.

The Naturalists Library, Vol VII: Mammalia. Sir William Jardine, 1843.

Reposted from

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.