Subject: Whales and arthritis

Caroline DeLong (
Wed, 21 Apr 1999 10:27:37 -1000

At 02:13 PM 4/19/99 -1000, you wrote:
>Subject: Whales and arthritis
>To: "''" <>
>From: "Lim, Hoong" <>
>Date: Mon, 19 Apr 1999 15:59:27 -0700
>Dear dr. DeLong:
>I am a Canadian physician.
>Last year while travelling on an tourist expedition to Antarctica I
>encountered a whale skeleton at the site of a former whaling station
>which was showing evidence of a metabolic bone disease which looked very
>similar to ankylosing spondylitis in humans, where osteophytes grow
>between the vertebrae and cause arthritis. The whale was huge and from
>photos which I have shown some others, most likely a Blue Whale.
>My question for you is has this disease ever been identified in marine
>mammals, esp whales? I have searched Biological Abstracts as well as the
>internet and not come up with anything. It is genetically linked in
>humans to a very specific locus.
>This specimen had  C1-2 vertebrates fused, as well as two thoracic
>vertebrae and two "lumbar vertebrae with bony growths.
>Are there any other kinds of arthritis which whales suffers from? For
>instance in humans osteoarthritis is a disease of aging and weight
>bearing, but whales spend all of their life in the sea.
>If you are unable to answer my question, please refer me to someone who
>may be able to as I understand from your bio that you are a specialist
>in dolphin communication and probably not bones and joints of whales.
>Please send you reply to my email address:
>   (I am writing from our librarians computer
>for my search right now)
>Thanks again!
>Dr. Wendy Lee Wilson
>Vancouver Canada

Hi Wendy,

You are right, the bones and joints of whales are not my specialty.  I
consulted with a senior scientist in our lab, and he recommended two
contacts.  Try sending these scientists your questions-

James Mead
Marine Mammal Program 
National Museum of Natural History
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC  20560

John Heyning
Section of Mammals
Natural History Museum of L.A. Co.
900 Expo Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA  90007

Good Luck,
Caroline DeLong
Marine Mammal Research Program 
Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology
P.O. Box 1106
Kailua, HI  96734