A Whale of a Cavity!

May 01, 2013 Posted by: K. VandenBerg

 The 'Whales and Nails' team sure knows how to have fun, and all in the name of science! During final skull repairs, they decided to take a break from "bones" and work on "brains!" The amazingly talented team took advantage of the opportunity to make a model of the left side of Whale 68's brain. Using urethane foam, they created an "endocast" (internal cast of a hollow object) of the left hemisphere.  In the picture collage below, Dan has labeled one of the images to give you some orientation - opening to the spinal column, lobe to the left eye, and lobe to the left ear.  This could quite possibly be the world's first urethane cast of a humpback whale brain!

How big is a humpback whale brain?  Typically, a brain is measured by volume or weight. To estimate the size of Whale 68's brain, Dan lined the left hemisphere with a thin layer of plastic (see photo) and poured a measured amount of water into it until it filled the brain case up.  Assuming symmetry, he estimated the total brain volume at 19,400 cubic centimeters, which is equivalent to approximately 5.12 gallons! Wow!

By comparing the relative size of the left hemisphere to an 8" soccer ball, which has an approximate volume of 4,390.7 cubic centimeters, Dan estimates that Whale 68's brain volume is roughly 4 1/2 times the size of a soccer ball! How cool is that?

Brain Case in Pictures

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Last updated: April 14, 2015

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