Re: Grey whale vertebrae

From: Phil Clapham (
Date: Thu Oct 11 2001 - 08:28:40 EDT


Assume you're in the same class as the other person who just asked mne
this question! here's what I said to her...

I'm not surprised you haven't been able to find this - this sort of
information is very obscure and you have to dig back into some very old
and not readily available sources that only us weird whale biologists
know about.

Anyway, the vertebral formula for the gray whale, based on a skeleton in
the British Museum is: C 7, D 14, L 14, Ca 21. Typically, these vary
somewhat from one individual to another.

According to an old source, "the... cervical vertebrae are quite
independent of each other as in the Rorquals, and they have the wide
lateral foramina formed by the transverse processes, which is so
conspicuous a feature of those vertebrae in Balaenoptera and Megaptera."
(Beddard 1900, cited in True 1904).

Am checking with a friend at Smithsonian to see if there is any more on
this. Hope this helps!


References cited above:

Beddard, W.S. 1900. A book of whales. London (no publisher given) 320
True, F.W. 1904. The whalebone whales of the western North Atlantic.
Smithsonian Institution Press (reprinted 1983). 332 pp + 50 plates.

> Joe wrote:
> I've looked and looked everywhere, but I can't seem to find the number
> of vertebrae the Grey whale has. For my project I need to know the
> number of cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and caudal vertebrae the Grey
> whale has. Also can you confirm that the cervical vertebrae of the
> Grey whale is not fused. Thanks.

The Society for Marine Mammalogy will be holding its 14th Biennial
Conference from 28 November to 3 December 2001, in Vancouver, BC.  Visit
the conference Web site at for full details of
this important meeting.

Phillip J. Clapham, Ph.D. Large Whale Biology Program Protected Species Branch Northeast Fisheries Science Center 166 Water Street Woods Hole, MA 02543, U.S.A.

tel. 508 495-2316 fax 508 495-2066 email:

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