Reconstructing the last known movements of the Natural History Museum’s blue whale

Tuesday 18 July 2017 - 15:00
NOC Southampton - Henry Charnock Lecture Theatre (Waterfront Campus).
Clive Trueman (with Natalie Cooper (NHM), Andrew Jackson (Trinity College Dublin), Richard Sabin (NHM), Kathryn Chadwick (UoS) and Ellen Coombs (NHM, UCL).


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..

photo showing the new blue whale installation from below. The whale skeleton stretches from left (skull) to right (tail) across the image with the ceiling and west balcony as the backdrop. The mouth is agape as if about to feed, with the spine and tail curving into the ceiling.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.


Seminar category: 
POETS Corner