Subject: Callosities

Phillip J. Clapham (
Wed, 6 Oct 1999 20:57:17 -0400 (EDT)

What are right whale callosities?  They are (I'm pretty sure this is right,
and will check to make sure) cornified epithelium.  The callosities
themselves are covered with thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of
creatures called cyamids, more commonly known as whale lice.  The cyamids
may well feed off material in the water, but they are also known to eat
right whale skin; whether there is any benefit to the right whale from this
parasitism is a matter of some debate.	A friend of mine (Scott Kraus,
director of the right whale research project at the New England Aquarium)
once ran line transect counts on the body of a dead right whale and used
the results to estimate the total population of cyamids on the animal; if I
recall correctly, it was in excess of a million!

Phil Clapham