Age in humpback whales

From: Phil Clapham (
Date: Mon Mar 10 2003 - 07:50:05 EST

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    Hi Philippe:

    Good question! We don't know for sure, but humpbacks are thought to
    live to at least 50 years old. The problem is that it's difficult to
    age a whale. Humpback whales have these weird waxy plugs in their ears
    which grow a little bit every year and put on layers. If you cut up a
    dead whale (which isn't easy!) and count the layers in the ear plug, you
    can estimate the age of the whale. The problem is that scientists still
    arent sure whether the ear plug grows one layer a year, or two (this is
    kind of like counting tree rings, but they're not circular in a whale).

    The oldest whale is probably the bowhead whale, which lives in the
    Arctic. Scientists have recently estimated (using a different
    technique) that bowheads live to well over 100 years, maybe a lot more
    than that.

    Good luck with your project!

    Phil Clapham

    François Blouin wrote:
    > Hello
    > My name is Philippe. I am in grade 3 and I am doing a project on the
    > humpback whale.
    > My question is:
    > How old can a humpback whale be?
    > Thank you.
    > Philippe Blouin
    > P.S. Send your reply to my dad at
    > <>


    Phillip J. Clapham, Ph.D. Large Whale Biology Program 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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