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Monday, May 16, 2022


Whale bone collector uncovering secrets of world’s largest marine mammals

David Stemmer’s job as head of the SA Museum’s cetacean assortment typically has him knee-deep in tonnes of blood and offal to recuperate rotting carcasses of the most important mammals on earth, however he is fortunately turning the ugly into one thing stunning for the world to see. 

The SA Museum has the most important and most complete assortment of cetacea in Australia attracting researchers from around the globe.

About 38 totally different species of whales, dolphins and porpoises are saved for analysis with the majority of the 1,400 piece assortment made up of 900 dolphin specimens.

Mr Stemmer mentioned the gathering allowed analysis on inhabitants dynamics to assist protect the marine mammals by figuring out and minimising human affect.

However there are logistical concerns and limits on their skill to study extra concerning the largest cetaceans — some whales are very hardly ever sighted whereas others are too distant or cumbersome to be recovered.

Large black and white whale at beach water's edge with rope around tail, being lifted or towed by front loader, people watching
Whales are tough to retrieve for analysis due to their dimension and beaching in remoted places.(Provided: SA Museum)

“Basically, the massive whales are a lot, a lot more durable to review due to their dimension,” Mr Stemmer mentioned.

“For some research, you want numerous people to have the ability to get a superb reply — the traditional morphological research that’s accomplished on smaller animals cannot be accomplished.”

Scientists used the smallest molecules to study concerning the largest animals.

“A whole lot of the research contain the molecular, genetics,” Mr Stemmer mentioned.

“With the baleen whales, you possibly can pattern the baleen plates for isotopes.

“They develop a bit like hair, they’re keratin, they usually develop over time so you possibly can pattern them alongside the periphery and extract the totally different isotope signatures from the place they have been via their lives as a result of totally different areas have totally different isotope signatures.”

Shed with wooden crates stacked high on the left and large long bones piled on the floor, more in open cabinets on right
The cetacean assortment shed for the SA Museum.(Provided: SA Museum)

Entry dilemma

COVID journey restrictions have impacted analysis.

“Pre-COVID, we had guests each every so often learning the gathering as a result of one of many different issues with cetaceans is that they’re too massive to put up around the globe and the nation,” Mr Stemmer mentioned.

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