Reading Giant Whale Ear Wax

Wissenschaftler haben vor einem halben Jahr eine neue Methode zur Erforschung des Lebens der Wale entdeckt: Ohrenschmalzanalyse. Der Gehörpopel lässt sich anscheinend genauso wie Baumringe lesen und überhaupt: Ein Donnerstagmorgen lässt sich nicht viel besser beginnen, als mit einer gesunden Portion Walohrenschmalz.

wax

Blue whales […] carry around 10-inch long plugs of earwax. The earwax accumulates in concentric layers over the entire lifetime of the whale, with the oldest layers towards the center and the newest closest to the skin […] And because earwax is hydrophobic, it can absorb fat-soluble compounds, including some hormones and pollutants. These two properties allow scientists to 'read' these earwax plugs and trace the life histories of the whales, including times of stress (via cortisol levels) and exposure to contaminants such as mercury.

Although the earwax can only be retrieved from dead whales (the sample used in this study came from a whale who died after being hit by a ship), studying these plugs will allow scientists to learn about the pollutants that whales are exposed to.

Discover Mag: Giant earwax plugs tell the life stories of blue whales

Library of Medicine: Blue whale earplug reveals lifetime contaminant exposure and hormone profiles

Legende zur Illu oben: „(A) Schematic diagram showing the location of the earplug within the ear canal: (a) whale skull, (b) tympanic bulla, (c) pars flaccida/tympanic membrane (“glove finger”), (d) cerumen (earplug), (e) external auditory meatus, (f) auditory canal, (g) muscle tissue, (h) blubber tissue, and (i) epidermis. (B) Extracted blue whale earplug; total length 25.4 cm. (C) Earplug longitudinal cross-section. (D) View (20×) of earplug cross-section showing discrete laminae.“