Good Ol' Bowhead Whales
I found the new information (new for me!) so interesting in this "Old Soul" article (IIP Digital, June 24, 2013) by Lauren Monsen on the lifespan of bowhead whales that I'm excerpting it extensively even though (or maybe because?) I actually know very little about these whales:
[Living i]n the Arctic waters off Alaska's coast, bowhead whales . . . are now thought to be the world's longest-lived mammals . . . . Craig George, a biologist with the North Slope Department of Wildlife Management in Barrow, Alaska, said it wasn't until the 1990s that scientists suspected bowheads can live more than 200 years . . . . [But] a bowhead in 1992 . . . showed signs of advanced age[, so] . . . George . . . examine[d] it.According to Wikipedia, this baleen whale can grow to 20 meters long (nearly 70 feet). I have nothing of special interest to say about this whale, given my ignorance. I merely wished to register my astonishment.
"Old whales have really tough blubber, and they're heavily scarred . . . . They're marked with killer-whale bites, ice scars and puncture marks" that testify to the long, eventful lives they've led.The . . . bowhead was determined to be 130 years old through an age-analysis technique developed by Jeffrey Bada, a marine chemist at the University of California, San Diego. Bada studies whales' eye lenses, which contain amino acids that increase at predictable rates over time.
When scientists sent eyeballs from additional . . . Alaska bowheads to Bada's laboratory, Bada found that several came from whales more than 100 years old and judged one whale to be 211 years old.
"Those figures are conservative; the whales are probably older," Bada said.Bada's findings are supported by additional evidence. Some . . . bowheads . . . [have] antique harpoon tips in their bodies, indicating they survived skirmishes with 19th-century whalers.
Astonishment! At their long lives, I mean . . .