Subject: LARGEST WHALE (fwd)

Michael Williamson (
Tue, 15 Oct 1996 14:47:03 -0400 (EDT)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: 14 Oct 96 19:38 EST
To: "CLAPHAM,PHIL"@SIMNH.SI.EDU, "G.ask [Private Mail Group]"@SIMNH.SI.EDU
Subject: Copy of: LARGEST WHALE

Original message: "LARGEST WHALE"
From: <<>>

Dear Sir,
   On my way into work this morning a local radio station was broadcasting a
call in contest.  The question for the day was "What is the name of the
largest animal on Earth."  Several people called in with obviously wrong
answers, than a youngster called in and said it was a Blue Whale.  I thought
he was right because that's what I had always been taught, but the woman said
that wasn't the correct answer.  She finally revealed that the correct answer
was the Sulfer Back Whale.  My question is, Is there such a beast, and if so,
is it one of them scientific names for the Blue Whale?  Thanks for fielding
this question.
Best Regards,
Brian K.


Oh, THIS is a fun one.  Can you tell me the name of the radio station?
You - and the kid - were absolutely correct.  The sulphur-bottom (not
back) whale is another name for the blue whale.  Blue whales got this
other name because their undersides (which are often white or cream 
colored) are often covered with diatoms, which give the whale a golden 
(sulphur) sheen.  The scientific name  is, therefore, Balaenoptera 
musculus.  For both.

For the record, the largest blue whale ever measured was... well, there's
a bit of a dispute about it.  Guinness lists a 110 foot female taken
off South Georgia (Southern Ocean) as the record, but some scientists
question this and give an undisputed 103 foot female as the record.  As
in all baleen whales, female blue whales are a bit larger than males.

If you have the name of the radio station, call 'em and tell 'em they
screwed up.  And if they disagree, refer them to me! (202 357-4158 at
Smithsonian).  Shame on them!


Phil Clapham

rsity.  Katy (former wife of Roger), in addition
to being a great scientist, is one of those marvellous human beings who
make you feel like what you're doing is the greatest stuff in the world.
For many years she worked with Roger on humpback whale song and other
whale acoustics.  Currently she is involved with elephant vocalizations
in collaboration with a long-term study of wild African elephants.  It
was Katy who discovered the infrasonic (below the range of our hearing)
vocalizations that female elephants make which travel several km in air
and attract males.  Oh, email:

You're welcome to mention to any of these that I recommended them.  I
don't know how much information you will get - it all depends on how
busy they are, and in some cases whether they're out in the field or

Hope this helps!

Phil Clapham