Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bowhead lance tip bio-archeology

Bowhead whale found with a century-old lance in its blubber « Why Evolution Is True

Image via Why Evolution is True

It’s hard to age whales, and it’s usually done by looking at the proportion of right-handed amino acids in the eye-lens proteins, a proportion that increases with age. A more direct estimate, showing the extreme longevity of these leviathans, was just obtained from dissection of a bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) killed by Inuits off the coast of Alaska. According to MSNBC, an explosive (but perhaps unexploded) lance tip was found embedded in the whale’s blubber, a tip estimated at more than 100 years old. The whale, then, was estimated to be between 115 and 130 years old. Ironically, it was killed by a more modern version of the explosive lance.
I guess Inuits have been using the ol' "What if I only put the tip in ...?" wheedle for a long time. 
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