Minke Whale

 

An adult female Minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) measuring 25 feet and 10 tons and estimated to be 15 years old stranded on the coast of Washington in 1986.  Dr. Debbie Duffield of Portland State University and the NorthWest Regional Marine Mammal Stranding Network salvaged the whale and prepared its skeleton. In 1998 she transferred the skeleton to New Mexico State University and since 2000 the skeleton has been mounted in the Vertebrate Museum of the Biology Department in the basement of Foster Hall.  The museum's collections are used in teaching and research but include no public displays.  Completion of a new addition to Foster Hall in 2007 provided a new home for the whale where it is now safely on permanent public display for all visitors to see.  Below are posted pictures of the move and the re-mounting of the skeleton. Click on thumbnails for enlargements.

 

Minkes are usually solitary whales.  They are found nearly worldwide, sustained by krill, squid, and schooling fishes, and live to 50 years. Sometimes diving for 25 minutes to a depth of 130 feet, they can attain speeds of 21 mph, although usually their dives are not this spectacular. Their 152 decibel song may be used as sonar. Vestigial hip bones are a legacy of their terrestrial ancestry. Fossils and DNA document that whales evolved from even-toed ungulates in the Eocene 55 million years ago. Minkes are named after a Norwegian whaler, infamous for illegally harvesting these smallest of baleen (filter-feeding) whales once the industry extirpated all of its more lucrative larger cousins.

 

Above: The Minke skeleton as it arrived in 1998.  The large bone on the left is the jaw of a blue whale.

 

Above: The Minke skeleton mounted in the Vertebrate Museum.

 

Below: Whale on the move!

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