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    Via BuzzFeed

    Baleen Whales Might Be Evolved From Ancient Bottom Feeders

    Mammalodon colliveri may have been a mud slurping bottom feeder (Brian Choo / Museum Victoria)

    Mammalodon colliveri may have been a mud slurping bottom feeder (Brian Choo / Museum Victoria)

    The evolutionary track of baleen whales has long been a mystery. It’s been theorized in the past that baleen – ridged plates that filter small creature from the water as whales swim – evolved after whales used their teeth for the same reason. But studies on a bizarre 25 million year old fossil from Australia suggest that baleen whales’ ancestors might have sucked ocean creatures from the muck on the ocean’s floor – a much simpler evolutionary link from teeth to baleen, say scientists.

    Blue Whales Are Singing In Lower Voices Every Year And Nobody Knows Why

    A blue whale, the largest animal that every lived (on earth)

    A blue whale, the largest animal that every lived (on earth)

    But if you guessed that Global Warming might be one of the reasons, you guessed right…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

    Scientists at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography have been recording blue whale songs as far back as the 60′s, and

    have found the tonal frequency of the songs has reduced by fractions of a Hertz every year. This has been true even though the songs differ in different oceans and the populations seem quite distinct from each other. In the most studied populations, those off California, the pitch has reduced by 31 percent during the period.

    Possible reasons: noise pollution, new mating strategies, and changing blue whale demographics. But scientists remain unconvinced that any of these are truly the reason for the lower singing voices. It’s a mystery.

    Read more about it here.

    Something About Whales, Whale Teeth, Evolution, And Creationism

    Dorudon atrox, an ancestral whale from the Late Eocene of Egypt, pencil drawing, digital coloring

    Dorudon atrox, an ancestral whale from the Late Eocene of Egypt, pencil drawing, digital coloring

    I came across this article about some recent research that’s been done on how modern toothless (blue whales, humpback whales) evolved from toothed whales somewhere between 5 million and 25 million years ago.

    According to the web sheet:

    This study focused on one gene, the enamelin gene, which expresses the enamelin protein. Mammals that do not express this protein, such as toothless whales, lack enamel on their teeth (if they have teeth at all), the hardest substance in the vertebrate body, which caps each individual tooth. Evolution predicts that in order to have evolved from toothed ancestors like the fossil record suggests, modern toothless whales must contain a copy of this gene in their genome, yet it will be inactive due to the slow build-up of detrimental mutations over time – ie. it will be a pseudogene.

    And according to the leaders of the study – bingo!:

    In our research we clearly see the parallel evolution of enamel loss in the fossil record and the molecular decay of the enamelin gene into a pseudogene in representatives of four different orders of mammals that have lost enamel.

    Seems pretty straightforward stuff, unless you’re heavily vested in arguing evolution against creationism.
    More from the web sheet:

    Remember, if evolution did not occur to produce the diversity of life that we see today, and life was created by an intelligent designer, vestigial genes such as the enamelin gene in toothless whales should not exist in any genome. Intelligent design proponents and creationists like to skirt around the issue and claim that some or most pseudogenes are actually functional, but this is untrue. Even if some pseudogenes have gained a function, it still does not discount them as being vestigial remains from early generations.

    I’ve got to admit that I’ve never before really been exposed to this level of detail when it comes to this particular debate. It seems, to me, completely ridiculous that these two camps would bother to deconstruct the beliefs of the other, to go back and forth, etc. trying to prove each other wrong. I always wonder if there are any creationists who argue that God is so powerful he could have created a 15 billion year old universe 5 thousand years ago…but, see, that’s how they get you.

    Whale-related News From Santa Barbara: One Man Stage Version Of Moby Dick And Environmental Group Sues Feds For Not Protecting Blue Whales

    Actor Conor Lovett and his director wife, Judy Hegerty Lovett, are bringing their one-man-play version of Moby Dick to Ventura’s Rubicon Theater next week. The Lovett pair are known for a producing a series of strong, minimalist one man shows in recent years, and Moby Dick is no exception. An rave-ish review in the Irish Times says of Conor Lovett, “He holds us spellbound as he catches the humour as well as the wisdom of Ishmael’s commentary, his pauses for thought, for memory, for finding the right word, reminding us that the story of this noble but melancholy ship, its crew, its quarry and its captain with the crucifixion in his face, is a story told by a man of honour and of mercy.”

    Also, the Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense Center has notified the National Marine Fisheries Service that it will sue the agency for failing to implement a plan approved 11 YEARS AGO that was designed to help blue whale populations recover.

    Even though modern whaling was banned in 1966, and even though the blue whale was placed on the endangered species list in 1973, the largest creature ever to live on the planet earth still face many hazards; fishing gear, toxic waste and trash, and large ships. And while Santa Barbara channel is one of the best places in the world to see a blue whale, it’s also one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, making it a likely place for blue whales to get hit by ships. The NMFS recovery plan would address many of these hazards.

    Blame Canada! Dead Whale Found On Cruiseship Bow

    Fisheries officials examine dead whale attached to cruise ship bow in Vancouver, BC (Darryl Dyck / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

    Fisheries officials examine dead whale attached to cruise ship bow in Vancouver, BC (Darryl Dyck / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

    The Sapphire Princess cruise ship docked in Vancouver on Saturday with a dead 70 fin whale stuck to its bow. It’s not clear if the ship killed the whale or just dragged its already dead carcass back to port.

    Fin whales (also called finback whales) are the second largest living creatures on the planet, smaller only than blue whales, and they are listed as an endangered species in Canada.

    Ship strikes remain a very serious threat to many species of whales, including the North Atlantic right whales, of which only about 350 are believed to remain.

    Travelog: An Afternoon In Downtown New Bedford, Mass. – “Where Parking Is Free On The Weekends”

    For a good chunk of the 19th century, New Bedford, Massachusetts was one of the most diverse, prosperous, and progressive cities in the United States. But now, a hundred years later, long after the demise of the American Whaling Industry, New Bedford is reduced to advertising that it’s a place where “parking is free on the weekend.” But who cares, right? Industries come, and industries go. Just ask Iceland, which is ironically trying to dig its way out of economic ruin, by what? That’s right…Whaling!

    I, for one, visit New Bedford a handful of times per year. It’s a great place to spend a few hours, especially if you love maritime history and Herman Melville (which I do and do).

    But, first things first. Food. A diet coke, a pint of beer, a stuffed quahog, and a plate or Portuguese beef stew set me back less than 13 bucks at Antonio’s. I can sum Antonio’s up as follows: It tastes good. There’s usually some cute Portuguese girls working there at the bar and/or the pick up window. I ate there at noon and didn’t need to eat again until after 10PM. And my meal cost 13 bucks, alcohol included.

    Breakfast of champions...and this is the lunch portion (quahog, not pictured)

    Breakfast of champions...and this is the "lunch portion" (quahog, not pictured)

    Second things second…I don’t want to sound arrogant or anything, but I don’t often learn new stuff at whaling museums anymore. But today…I learned something. The scientific name for blue whales is Balaenoptera musculus…and, as it turns out, musculus can be interpreted as meaning “muscular” from the latin, but it can also be be interpreted as “tiny mouse,” and it’s commonly believed that this double-entendre was intentional on the part of the man who gave the name, Carl Linnaeus.

    And third things third…I “Stubbed” my toe in front of the Seaman’s Bethel. No shit. It cracked me up…

    Anyhoo…first stop post-food…the Seaman’s Bethel.

    The Seamens Bethel - New Bedford, Mass...as featured in Moby Dick

    The Seamen's Bethel - New Bedford, Mass...as featured in Moby Dick

    The Seamen’s Bethel, built between 1831 and 1832, served as the inspiration for Melville’s famous Chapel, Pulpit, and Sermon chapters of Moby Dick. I accept at face value that Melville sat in the pew below when he visited the very same building in 1840. Otherwise, why would it say that it was his pew?

    Herman Melvilles pew at the Seamens Bethel (great font, btw)

    Herman Melville's pew at the Seamen's Bethel (great font, btw)

    The bow-shaped pulpit was something that Melville imagined, and was only installed in 1961, after the Gregory Peck version of Moby Dick brought a new influx of Moby Dick-interested visitors to New Bedford.

    If you had to preach in this every week, wouldnt you be like, Really?  Really?

    If you had to preach in this every week, wouldn't you be like, "Really? Really?"

    To me, the cenotaphs are the highlights of the bethel. A cenotaph is a monument to honor a dead person whose remains lie elsewhere…like the bottom of the ocean perhaps?

    Poor Capn Swain made an Ahab-esque exit from this world.

    Poor Cap'n Swain made an Ahab-esque exit from this world.


    This isnt the most ironic way to die on a whaling voyage, but its in the top two.

    This isn't the most ironic way to die on a whaling voyage, but it's in the top two.

    Next stop…The New Bedford Whaling Museum, of course.

    It really is better than the one in Nantucket...(I think)

    It really is better than the one in Nantucket...(I think)

    The New Bedford Whaling Museum is so awesome that it has random whale parts just laying about.

    The jawbone of a sperm whale...

    The jawbone of a sperm whale...


    Baleen in the corner of the New Bedford Whaling Museum

    Baleen in the corner of the New Bedford Whaling Museum

    The museum is currently featuring an exhibit of classic whaling prints. If my memory serves, it covers Dutch, British, French, American, and Japanese prints. The highlight is an installation called “The french are the lads…” which features the prints that Melville reviews positively in chapter 55 “Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales.”

    The French Are The Lads...

    The French Are The Lads...

    And in these astonishing centuries-old Japanese prints, it’s confirmed that the Japanese continue to employ traditional methods in their modern day whaling endeavors.

    Traditional Japanese Whaling several hundred years ago

    Traditional Japanese Whaling several hundred years ago


    Modern Japanese Whaling (identical to previous)

    Modern Japanese Whaling (identical to above)

    And they also had on display some Rockwell Kent-illustrated copies of Moby Dick.

    Rockwell Kent-illustrated Moby Dick...Even through the glass, you can smell the communism in the drawings.

    Rockwell Kent-illustrated Moby Dick...Even through the glass, you can smell the communism in the drawings.

    Um…what else? Well, I saw a genuine Susan’s Tooth.

    A genuine Frederick Myrick.

    A genuine Frederick Myrick.

    Kids like whale bones. Everybody likes whale bones, when you think about it. They got whale bones.

    Blue whale and right whale (bones)...I think.  I know the big bones are of a blue whale

    Blue whale and right whale (bones)...I think. I know the big bones are of a blue whale

    They have a 90-foot, half-scale model of the whaling bark Logoda.

    The Whaling Bark Logoda - New Bedford Whaling Museum

    The Whaling Bark Logoda - New Bedford Whaling Museum

    And they have a whale wall mural with a cool Moby Dick in it.

    Thats me.

    That's me.

    Thats Herman Melvilles great-great-grandson.

    That's Herman Melville's great-great-grandson.

    So…after I left the Whaling Museum, I more or less did about half the walking tour. I didn’t get down to some of the gardens, and I didn’t get over to the seaport area, which you can see from the museum actually.

    The New Bedford, Massachusetts waterfront.

    The New Bedford, Massachusetts waterfront.

    They’ve got this big visitors center, and I’m just going to be honest with you here…there really isn’t anything in it. Like maybe one or two things and a bookshop that’s more like a bookshelf. I’m not trying to talk you out of going in there or anything. They’ve got maps of the walking tour in there.

    And, while I’m being honest, I’m not a HUGE fan of “The City that Lit the World” – a low-budget doc about New Bedford’s whaling past, i.e., I probably wouldn’t watch it a 3rd time.

    There’s this “Dead Whale or a Stove Boat” statue.

    New Bedford Whaling Tribute Statue

    New Bedford Whaling Tribute Statue

    The Quaker values that dominated ruling-class New Bedford society in the 19th century stood in stark opposition to slavery, and New Bedford was a prominent home to abolitionists and freed and escaped slaves. Frederick Douglass lived in the house on the left in the pic below.

    Frederick Douglass House, New Bedford, Mass. (left) - the house on the right is famous too, it housed some abolitionists and freed slaves.

    Frederick Douglass House, New Bedford, Mass. (left) - the house on the right is famous too, it housed some abolitionists and freed slaves.

    I’ll leave you with these images. Myself, when I saw them, it was time to go. I have no idea honestly…

    Double-you tee eff ?

    Double-you tee eff ?

    I haven’t regretted not stealing a sign more since I didn’t steal the Lolita Bra Store sign down on the lower east side of Manhattan…(and now it’s gone, and I’m the only person that even remembers it).

    I actually sort of needed this place to be open.

    I actually sort of needed this place to be open.

    So, do yourself a favor and spend some time in New Bedford, Mass. one afternoon. The Whaling Museum is top notch. The city’s forgotten more history and relevance than 99.9% of this country ever had. And it’s got a few shops and a couple places to eat. And be sure to come back in January to watch me read at the Moby Dick-a-thon.

    Dead Blue Whale Floats Belly Up Off California After Being Struck And Killed By A Ship (photo)

    This dead blue whale was found in the Santa Barbara Channel off California

    This dead blue whale was found in the Santa Barbara Channel off California

    There are often a whole lot of “wayward whale” and “dead whale” stories, but I rarely find time for them…unless a globster or an explosion is involved.

    However, check out the picture above of the blue whale killed off the coast of California. You get a really good sense of exactly how big the world’s biggest animal ever really is…and then you also get a sense that one of the rarest and most-endangered animals on the planet is dead for no good reason.

    Giglioli’s Whale And The High-Finned Sperm Whale Are Like The Bigfeet Of The Sea

    Everybody knows about Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, the chupacabra, and the globster. But not nearly enough people claim to have seen cryptid whales.

    Gigliolis Whale, as drawn by Giglioli himself.

    Giglioli's Whale, as drawn by Giglioli himself.

    Enrico Hillyer Giglioli was an Italian zoologist, who, on September 4, 1867, about 1200 miles off the coast of Chile, spotted a species of whale that he did not recognize. He described the whale as having two dorsal fins, a feature shared by exactly ZERO known species of whales. The following year, a similar sized whale with two dorsal fins was spotted off the coast of Scotland. Then again off the coast of Corsica by a frenchman in 1983.

    An high-finned sperm whale as rendered by an artist

    An high-finned sperm whale as rendered by an "artist"

    The high-finned sperm whale is said to inhabit the seas near Great Britain’s Shetland Islands. The high-finned sperm whale is basically a regular sperm whale with a high dorsal fin on it’s back. Sir Robert Sibbald (1641–1722) was the first person to claim to have seen high-finned sperm whales, two of them, in fact, stranded on a beach. Sibbald is actually credited with being the first person to describe (and name) the blue whale.

    Blue Whale Recorded Looking For Whale Tail Near Fire Island

    This is a black and white picture of a blue whale

    This is a black and white picture of a blue whale

    For the first time ever, the mating call of an adult male blue whale has been recorded in New York waters. The sounds were recorded back in January by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Bioacoustics Research Program.

    I bet you’re thinking the same thing too, right? The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Bioacoustics Research Program?!? I thought they shut that place down!!!

    According to Christopher Clark (of said lab), blue whales are rarely sighted in the coastal waters of the eastern US, and their sounds are usually picked up from distances very far from the shore. This particular whale, though, visited Fire Island on his way from Nantucket.

    Makes sense, though, when you consider what the whale was looking for.

    Long Island Whale Tail (The best!  Thats right New Jersey!)

    Long Island Whale Tail (The best! That's right New Jersey!)

    Whales, Whales, Whales…Moby Dick Twittered (Tweeted?) And The Soviets Are Still Evil

    Translation from Chinese (I think): “Not all traditions deserve to be preserved. Put an end to whaling in Japan.”

    Translation from Chinese (I think): “Not all traditions deserve to be preserved. Put an end to whaling in Japan.”

    New from the world of whales:

    • Another list (with pictures) of graphic and/or disturbing environmentalist press campaigns (Trendhunter)
    • J2, a killer whale in Puget Sound is over 100 years old…that’s almost 4 “Kurt Cobain’s” (Seattle PI)
    • It took 9.5 months and 12,849 updates to Tweet Moby Dick, now…on to Alice in Winderland (Publicdomain Twitter)
    • “Scientists have documented the first known migration of blue whales from the coast of California to areas off British Columbia and the Gulf of Alaska since the end of commercial whaling in 1965.” (Del Mar Times)
    • New paper from the NOAA shows that the Soviet Union killed more than 200,000 whales illegally between 1947 and 1973. It also says the Soviets are responsible for the extinction of eastern Pacific right whale populations. (Discovery)
    • Aussie government cuts $300,000 Special Envoy on Whaling job (News.com.au)
    • Scientists use both ancient and modern methods to determine that in the past there were more fish and whales than there are now (Guardian)