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Whale Earwax Reveals Life History Of Animal

Earwax from a blue whale revealed a lot about the animal’s life in the ocean.

When a blue whale was killed by a ship strike off the Santa Barbara Coast in 2007, researchers decided to analyze the ear plug.

In the past, scientists have used the plug to determine the whale’s age. Just like the rings in a tree trunk, you can count the layers of the earwax, one layer for every year.

But they looked at the earwax to find out much more.

“The scientists we worked with at Baylor University came up with this novel approach to separate each layer and look at each year to find out the contaminants the whale had been picking up, how much stress the whale was under each year and also its hormone level to find out when it became sexually mature,” said Michelle Berman, the Museum of Natural History associate curator.

Some of the contaminants found inside the whale’s ear included pesticides, an insecticide called DDT, and a chemical used in coolants and insulating fluids called PCB.

Tonight, Berman will speak on more details found in the whale’s earwax at 7 p.m. at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

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