It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a whale’s Major Life Events — feast, famine, exposure to pollution, hormonal changes, stress levels — can now be charted. They’re all there, recorded for scientists to examine and theorize about. Best of all, the whale doesn’t necessarily have to be dead for that riveting information to be accessible. (a word here to the auspicious Japanese Whaling Research and Food Processing Council — you no longer have to kill and eat the whales in order to validate your research.)
Most of the information has been available in bone or tooth samples for ages. Same as for humans. But those samples have generally been found in skeletons, which tend to be associated with death. Now there is a new source of this vital information (in the case of whales, anyway): Ear wax. That’s right! Ear wax! Theoretically at least, it could be retrieved from a live whale. I’m not altogether certain just how it would be done, but I’m pretty sure that there will be a number of scientists working on the project who are themselves parents of toddlers, so a solution shouldn’t be too far away.
The plugs of whale ear wax can be 25 centimetres long and weigh up to 250 grams, substantially larger than human earwax plugs. But, of course, we humans have fingers, which whales don’t have. This could be significant if scientists (or, indeed, law enforcement personnel, or journalists) were to consider trolling the past of individuals via their ear wax. It is highly likely that only recent events would be available to evaluate. Check out this short video of the former Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, mining and eating his ear wax during Question Time in Parliament, which i think illustrates the point nicely. Perhaps Mr Rudd was already aware of the whale research and was intent on purging his own ears of any damaging deposits.