Whale’s Earwax

By Anupum Pant

Unlike us, whales never clean their ears. And when they die, all of the ear wax they collect through out the span of their lives can be extracted from the skull. This is usually a column of wax which is icky to look at, consists of fibers and is pretty rigid. It might look like a roughed up candle to an untrained eye. Also, these ear wax columns can be as much as 1 to 4 feet in height. But all of that is not even the most interesting thing about whale’s earwax.

Whale’s blubber is interesting for scientists because it carries a lot of information about what kind of toxins/chemicals a whale was exposed to in the ocean. This tells them about the kind of toxins that are being put into the sea. However it doesn’t give them any information about when the whale was exposed to these toxins. The earwax helps here.

The columns of earwax of a whale have rings when you cut them, just like the rings of a tree. And just like the rings of a tree, they carry the information related to the time. Each ring usually corresponds to 6 months of a whale’s life and by studying the composition of these rings scientists can tell what kind of chemicals the whale was exposed to, and when…


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