Dick Watching: “Must Love Whales”

Hello there, ladies and Dick(watcher)s! Welcome to this week’s installment of everyone’s favorite cetacean-centric link list. Shall we get started? I thought so, too!

1.       In our first ‘eeeww’-inducing tidbit of whale-related news, a 47-foot whale washed up on San Francisco’s Ocean Beach on Tuesday (goo!), and it was badly decomposed on arrival. According to news sources, three bulldozers were charged with carrying the leviathan above the high tide line to bury it. But! Here’s the weird part: Scientists have no idea what kind of whale this is. They say it has distinct characteristics of a Fin Whale, but also those of a rare Sei whale…but also! This big guy’s got multi-colored baleen! How San Francisco is that, I ask you? No wonder he decided to head towards the city by the bay (gay?) to die. Back to the point at hand: Scientists are beginning to think this whale is a hybrid, which would be insane: ““This would be very exciting if — when the DNA samples are analyzed — that’s what it turns out to be,” said Gulf of the Farallone National Marine Sanctuaries media liaison Mary Jane Schramm. As I said in last week’s Dick Watching, I’m a native San Franciscan, so I had plenty of friends tweeting and facebooking about this dude. One said, “He was a smelly beast.” Poor, gross guy.

2. Ok, this is just freaky: I am only hours away from boarding a San Diego-bound plane and what do I learn? That the San Diego Natural History Museum is coordinating with the San Diego zoo to excavate a 3 million-year-old whale fossil! Paleontologists are currently dusting off the 20-foot skull of the mighty sea monster. The best part? The bones were discovered during a construction project. At this point, scientists believe the skull belongs to a variety of whale known as, a Great Whale. Also, this article says that baleen whales used to be mean and aggressive, and weren’t always the gentle giants we know and love today. Check it!

3. Hey, do you guys want to see some pictures of a Great White Shark eating a whale? You know, I thought you might, and you are welcome. But take warning: these images are not for the faint of heart, or for all the whales reading this: If you’re a whale, avert your large kind eyes.

4. Must love whales! Or at least, this guy must really love whales. Roland Kays, curator of mammals at the State Museum, went to get himself a few whale skulls, but  had to haul them back to the museum–and oh, they were ripe. Apparently people try to “pawn whales off” on him all the time, but he says, “no!” Except for this time, because these skulls are especially cool. But it wasn’t an easy process. Kays describes transporting the whale heads like this: “‘There were a lot of maggots and a soupy, gunky muck,’ Kays said. There was also the buttery glistening of whale oil, which illuminated the homes of 18th-century America.” Nauseating!

5. This one’s for all those environmental buffs out there. If you thought whales were magical yesterday, you’ll think they’re extra magical after I tell you this: Whales can stop global warming! Here’s how: These gigantic guys and gals store massive amounts of carbon in their enormous bodies, much to the same effect as grass, plants and trees. However, when whales die, they take their CO2 with them to the grave, whereas flora release it back into the atmosphere. What’s more, three average-sized blue whales can remove the same amount of CO2 than an acre of grassland, and if restored to natural populations, they could potentially remove up to 160,000 tons of carbon annually. Now that’s what I’d call a whale of a tale if I’ve ever heard one, you know, about a whale.