Saturday, June 16, 2007

Old bomb found in whale

Updated - see below

Another data-point against whale hunting - these giants of the sea can become quite old.

19th century bomb found in whale

Scientists have retrieved a weapon fragment from a whale that suggests it may have swum its first strokes not long after the American Civil War.

The fragment is part of a time delay bomb that was introduced in 1879 and manufactured until 1885.

Scientists say it is rare to find a whale over 100 years old but believe some may reach 200.

The bowhead whale was killed by indigenous hunters off Alaska as part of their subsistence quota.

Experts think the wound was inflicted in about 1890.

That's about 120 years ago. So a whale that escaped death by whale hunting more than a century ago, was killed by whale hunting this year. Tragic.

Edit: Triggerede by ERV's comment I did a little research into the living span of mammals, and it turns out that due to the discovery of the bomb and other discoveries, as well as chemical analysis of the levels of aspartic acid in the whales' eyes, Bowhead whales are now considered the oldest mammals. A honour previously thought to belong to Homo Sapiens.

And they are not the longest living by a small margin either.

Bada found that most of the adult whales were between 20 and 60 years old when they died, but five males were much older. One was 91, one was 135, one 159, one 172, and the oldest whale was 211 years old at the time of its death. That whale, alive during the term of President Clinton, was also gliding slowly and gracefully through the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort seas when Thomas Jefferson was president.

Bada explained that the method of measuring changes in aspartic acid to determine age has an accuracy range of about 16 percent, which means the 211 year-old bowhead could have been from 177 to 245 years old.

The oldest known ages for mammals are 110 years for a blue whale and 114 years for a fin whale, based on a Japanese scientist's counting of waxy laminates on the inner ear plug of the whales, a method that does not work for bowheads. The oldest living person with a birth certificate was a 122-year-old woman from France who died in 1997. Elephants have lived to 70 in captivity, so bowheads may be the oldest mammals that exist.

Of course, non-mammals, such as parrots and turtles, are also know to live to great ages, so there are probably other animals that lives as long as the Bowhead whales.

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Blogger ERV said...

Are there any other mammals that live this long?? We can make it to 120-ish now, with modern nutrition and medicine, but animals in the wild? Ugh, and of course we had to kill it.

June 16, 2007 10:16 PM  
Blogger Kristjan Wager said...

Good question - other types of whales are know to live as long as this particular species might have, but check my edit to see how trully longliving these whales are.

June 16, 2007 11:24 PM  
Blogger Dustin said...

Yeah, I can't believe that countries are starting to actually push back against whaling regulations, and Japan keeps exploiting loopholes. I thought we'd at least gotten past that by now -- but we didn't, evidently.

June 17, 2007 9:09 PM  
Blogger Tlazolteotl said...

I don't think any parrots live 200 years, though. 130 years, maybe.

I think some land tortoises might live 200 or more years though.

Think of how many generations that old bowhead might have sired. To bad he couldn't have just expired naturally. On the other hand, I wonder if the people in Barrow can tell the difference between old and young bowhead based on taste or texture? He must have been a tough old dog!

June 19, 2007 9:33 PM  

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