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Earwax in Whales: Part 1

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The scientific community never ceases to surprise.

Two scientists at Baylor University have been studying Blue whale earplugs to try and learn more about these roaming creatures and they have discovered the most interesting results.

In the same way that you can cut down a tree and examine its age, you can pull a stick of earwax out of a whale and determine its migration patterns.


It’s true! These earplugs, or length of wax that has been accumulating for years, tell a whale’s biography.

These Shrek-like sticks of wax are over a foot long and are hydrophobic which mean­­s they can absorb fats and lipids. By examining these you can discover anything about a whale that you would like.

We can know its age, migration, diet, stress and hormone levels, pregnancies…the list goes on and on!

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What we are dealing with here is a figurative time-traveling device for studying an understudied giant. We are essentially going back in time layer-by-layer to explore the life of that whale. 

Previously marine biologists would study these creatures through scar tissue or by investigating its blubber. But these measures told scientists relatively little compared to the earplug discovery.

Now we can go as far as to know the chemical properties of the water the whale was swimming in and where certain pesticides originated.

This discovery will have a lasting impact on human pollution discussion and can hopefully tell us more about our own health and how much earwax plays affects it.

Hopefully, this was the most fascinating – and probably only – thing you’ve read about earwax today! We can only hope this gained source of knowledge will help rebound whale population levels.

Follow this link to read more about how scientists are using whale earwax plugs to collect important environmental data! 


 

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