Tag Archives: Man and Whales

Whale Sense of Smell

Another common question we hear inside the NBWM walls is, ‘Do whales have a sense of smell?’ I wish that I had a good answer for those who ask the question and for our docents, so they could relay the proper information. Research has shown that the olfactory bulb is missing from the brains of odontocetes (toothed whales, dolphins, porpoises). However, Pierre-Henry Fontaine states in his book Whales and Seals: Biology and Ecology, that all cetaceans have maintained their Jacobson’s organ, also known as the vomeronasal organ. This ‘gives an animal the ability to “smell” its food once it’s in its mouth’.

So, what about the baleen whales? A new article just posted by the Alaska Dispatch talks about some of the research being done on this subject. Included in this story is the confirmation that bowhead whales have the olfactory bulb and that the genes for sensing smell are turned ‘on’.  Based on the fact that krill have an aroma, it seems likely that sense of smell is still useful to mysticetes. It will be interesting and fun to follow this type of research. That way we can continue to provide the most current information to our docents and our visitors.

In the meantime, if you are interested in the evolution of the sense of smell in whales, be here on Thursday, March 15, for Dr. Stephen Godfrey’s presentation, When Whales Walked the Earth: Fossil Whales and Olfactory Evolution. Reception is at 6:30, lecture is at 7:30. This lecture is part of the Man and Whales portion of the Combined Speaker Series. More information is available at our website.

When whales walked the earth, March 15

Dr. Stephen Godfrey, Curator of Paleontology, Calvert Marine Museum

Dr. Stephen Godfrey, Curator of Paleontology, Calvert Marine Museum, presents an illustrated lecture, When Whales Walked the Earth: Fossil Whales and Olfactory Evolution on Thursday, March 15 at 7:30 p.m.

Marine science has long assumed that sea creatures like whales have no need of a sense of smell. While this is likely true for some, it is now known not to be the case for extant baleen whales. The discovery of a partial skull of a 50 million-year-old whale sent Dr. Godfrey – one of the foremost researchers on Miocene marine fossils in the country – on an unexpected quest to explain how and why the sense of smell in some whales has evolved but not others.

Dr. Godfrey is the fourth of 12 distinguished speakers scheduled through May 10 – part of the Whaling Museum’s three signature lecture series: the Sailors’ Series, Man and Whales, and the Old Dartmouth Lyceum. Held on Thursday evenings, all programs include a reception at 6:30 p.m. in the Jacobs Family Gallery followed by the lecture at 7:30 p.m. in the Cook Memorial Theater.

Admission: $15 members; $20 non-members. For tickets, call (508) 997-0046 Ext. 100.

The 2012 lecture series is presented by BayCoast Bank, and sponsored in part by C.E. Beckman, and Hampton Inn Fairhaven/New Bedford.

Rare Whales, Amazon ‘Clears the Shelves’, March 1 Lecture

Yesterday, we posted a story about Amazon.com.jp selling nearly 150 different whale products. Apparently the global reaction to this news has prompted Amazon in Japan to remove all of these products from their website. Hopefully this move will be permanent.

Shepherd's Beaked Whale. Illustration by Phil Coles, http://www.beakedwhaleresource.com/

A research team from Tasmania experienced one of those rare moments of excellent timing last month. While looking for blue whales, they encountered a pod of Shepherd’s Beaked Whales, (Tasmacetus shepherdi) sometimes known as Tasman’s Beaked Whale, and caught them on film. Like most beaked whales, most of what is known about this species comes from studying stranded animals.

Don’t forget about the engaging lecture planned for the Whaling Museum’s Cook Memorial Theater next Thursday night.  Dr. Peter J. Capelotti will discuss one of the most informative and important reports ever written about industrial whaling in the 1930s, The Whaling Expedition of the Ulysses 1937-1938. Reception begins at 6:30, lecture at 7:30. Special student price of $5 available for students with valid ID.

Gary Jobson launches lecture series, Feb. 2.

Gary Jobson (photo: Billy Black)

Gary Jobson, world-class sailor and president of US SAILING will be the first of 12 distinguished speakers in a combined lecture series beginning on Thursday, February 2 at the Whaling Museum.

Gary Jobson will present “Sailing: Speed and Passion.” A world class sailor, television commentator and author, Jobson is President of US SAILING, the national governing body of sailing in the United States. He has authored 17 books on sailing, is Editor-at-Large of Sailing World and Cruising World magazines and has been ESPN’s sailing commentator since 1985. In October 2003 he was inducted into the America’s Cup Hall of Fame by the Herreshoff Marine Museum. In 1999, Jobson won the Nathanael G. Herreshoff Trophy, US SAILING’s most prestigious award. He currently races a Swan 42, Mustang, and an Etchells, Whirlwind.

Jobson’s illustrated talk is the first of 12 programs scheduled this winter and spring – February 2 through May 10 – part of the Whaling Museum’s three signature lecture series now combined: the Sailors’ Series (5 programs), Man and Whales (3 programs), and the Old Dartmouth Lyceum (4 programs). Held on Thursday evenings, all programs include a reception at 6:30 p.m. in the Jacobs Family Gallery followed by the lecture at 7:30 p.m. in the Cook Memorial Theater.

Admission to each lecture: member, $15; non-member, $20. Select any number of programs when you confirm. Subscription to the combined series: members, $165.00 for all 12 lectures; non-members, $225.00. For tickets please call (508) 997-0046 Ext. 100.

The Sailors’ Series (SS) celebrates its 22nd year with illustrated lectures presenting a wide variety of experience and adventures by individuals with lifelong commitments to sailing, boats, and the sea. Thursdays: February 2 and 16, March 22, April 12 and 19.

The Man and Whales series (M&W) examines our changing views of marine mammals with science-themed lectures that bring focus to important whale conservation topics through the expertise of those who dedicate their professional lives to these issues. Thursdays: March 1, 15 and 29.

The Old Dartmouth Lyceum series (ODL) illuminates broader historical themes with fine and decorative arts by examining significant holdings in the Museum collection, including 19th century landscape painting, ceramics and glassware. Thursdays: April 5 and 26, May 3 and 10.

Schedule:

February 16 – John Rousmaniere: “The Golden Pastime,” an illustrated history of American yachting history. (SS)

March 1 – Dr. Peter Capelotti: “The Whaling Expedition of the Ulysses 1937–38.” (M&W).

March 15 – Dr. Stephen Godfrey: “When Whales Walked the Earth: Fossil Whales and Olfactory Evolution.” (M&W)

March 22 – Douglas Adkins: “Dorade; the History of an Ocean Racing Yacht.” (SS)

March 29 – Capt. Stacy Pedrozo, USN, C.O., Naval Justice School, and Capt. Tom Fetherston, USN Retired, “Whose Homeland Security? Protecting Marine Mammals While Protecting National Security.” (MW)

April 5 – Stuart P. Feld, Hirschl & Adler Galleries: “Museum acquisitions during the tenure of Director and Curator Richard Kugler.” (ODL)

April 12 – Capt. Sean S. Bercaw: “Full Sail into Cuba on the Amistad.” (SS)

April 19 – Rich Wilson: “Race France to France, Leave Antarctica to Starboard.” (SS)

April 26 – Kirk J. Nelson: “New Bedford Glass and Its Context.” (ODL)

May 3 – Keith Kauppila: “Visual Culture of the Civil War,” (ODL)

May 10 – Chris Gustin: “Finding Form.” (ODL).

The 2012 lecture series is presented by BayCoast Bank, and sponsored in part by C. E. Beckman, and Hampton Inn Fairhaven/New Bedford.