History of whale hearing: Blue whale fetus

Maya Yamato, Smithsonian Institution
March 11, 2015
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Blue whale fetus
Maya Yamato, Smithsonian Institution

This 1936 blue whale specimen from the Gulf of Alaska (above: preserved in alcohol, below: CT scan) is part of a rare Smithsonian collection of whale fetuses that were collected in association with commercial whaling operations in the early to mid-20th century, strandings and fisheries by-catch. In 2015, a team of researchers from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History CT scanned 56 specimens of toothed and baleen whales and gained new insight about how whales successfully made the dramatic evolutionary shift from land to sea and adapted to hearing underwater. (Photo by Maya Yamato / Smithsonian Institution)