Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Amino Acids in Eye Lens Indicate the Age of Whales

A fascinating story on Pulse of the Planet aired today on WCPN ("IdeaStream!") - determining the age of Bowhead Whales by measuring the quantity of some types of amino acids in the eye lens nucleus  [listen to the story].  Marine chemist Jeffrey Bada, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, was interviewed for the story.
Beyond the immediate questions raised in my mind (how do researchers extract the material from the eye of a Bowhead Whale? Why do right-handed amino acids persist in just certain tissues?) was the surprising discovery that some animals are approaching 200 years old.  Wow.  A follow-up story is scheduled for April 23: Aging Whales--Underwater Advantage.

Get much more on the basic biology of the Bowhead from this special publication:
The Bowhead whale / editors, John J. Burns, J. Jerome Montague, Cleveland J. Cowles. Lawrence, KS : Society for Marine Mammalogy, c1993

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