Reconstructing the last known movements of the Natural History Museum’s blue whale
Today (Friday 14th) the Natural History Museum in London reopens it’s central Hintze Hall- after 50 years of dinosaur dominance, pride of place is now be given to a mountedskeleton of a female blue whale, which stranded off Wexford, Ireland in 1891 -you might have seen the BBC Horizon documentary on the installation of the whale on Thursday..
Here I’d like to share -before the public release- results of a collaboration between UoS, NHM and Trinity College Dublin to reconstruct the life of this individual whale using stable isotope analyses of baleen plates coupled with ocean biogeochemical modeling (NEMO-medusa). We have reconstructed the likely movement behaviors of the NHM whale at a resolution previously impossible using historic archived samples, revealing insights into the the movement ecology of the great whales before hunting reduced populations to hear extinction.
From an academic perspective the main interest lies in being able to reconstruct movements of marine animals in detail from simple stable isotope measurements. We also hope that visitors to the museum will be able to engage with the specimen more profoundly knowing more intimate details about her and death – and that our approaches will connect more ocean science to the flagship exhibit for the NHM.