Last updated: April 14, 2015
Snow is currently on the Alaska Marine Highway traveling south. She will arrive in Bellingham this week and then begin her overland journey to Maine. We wish safe travels to the Whales and Nails team.
With Snow's bones in transit, Ranger Kelly decided to play with killer whale bones for the day! Local high school students from Gustavus were afforded the opportunity to learn about cetaceans by examining the flipper bones and vertebrae of a rare killer whale calf specimen. The calf, a small female, died in 2006 as a result of fishing gear entanglement. She will be articulated in the community at a later date and provide a world class interpretive display for park visitors.
Using real killer whale bones and sketches of human hands, students compared whale flipper bones to the bones in their own hands. Students were able to see the similarities in structure and discuss the differences in function. The fossil record has increasingly linked whales to earlier land dwelling mammals via several physical characteristics: bones in their flippers which resemble forelimbs of land mammals, pelvic bones, vestigial hind limbs, vertical up and down movement of the spine which resembles a running terrestrial mammal, and a blowhole to breathe air into the lungs.
This experience helped the students learn about the process of science - how to recognize the role of predictions and how they lead to tests which can challenge the validity of a hypothesis. Students were engaged and enjoyed the opportunity to solve a few pieces in the evolutionary puzzle!