Wax Ear Plug Illuminates a Whale's Life

Who would have thought that ear wax would add to scientific knowledge. A wax ear plug from a dead 12 years old whale has shed more light on its life. Traditional research involved blubber, faeces and blood.

Lipids, keratin and waxes built up by two layers a year. This was used to tell the age of the whale. When sliced ultrafine, 24 separate rings were identified.

Closer analysis was done and various industrial chemicals and pesticides were found. Some of the chemicals persisted in the wax despite being banned world wide ten years before. There is no doubt that these chemicals were stored in the females fat and passed onto the young.

Mercury was high at two periods in the whale"s life. Testosterone level rose when the whale reached maturity at ten years of age. The high chemical rate is believed to have an indirect effect on the high cortisol level, the stress hormone. However, a 12 year old male would have been driven to compete with other males for females and form social bonds.
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Conservation by Ty Buchanan
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