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The bowhead whale Balaena mysticetus is a species of the family Balaenidae , in parvorder Mysticeti , and genus Balaena , which once included the right whale. This thick-bodied species can weigh from 75 to tonnes 74 to 98 long tons; 83 to short tons.
The bowhead was also known as the Greenland right whale or Arctic whale. American whalemen called them the steeple-top , polar whale ,  or Russia or Russian whale. The bowhead has the largest mouth of any animal.
The bowhead was an early whaling target. The population was severely reduced before a moratorium was passed to protect the species. Of the five stocks of bowhead populations, three are listed as " endangered ", one as " vulnerable ", and one as "lower risk, conservation dependent" according to the IUCN Red List. The global population is assessed as of least concern.
Carl Linnaeus first described this whale in the 10th edition of his Systema Naturae Today, the bowhead whale occupies a monotypic genus , separate from the right whales , as proposed by the work of John Edward Gray in Authorities have repeatedly recategorized the three populations of right whale plus the bowhead whale, as one, two, three or four species, either in a single genus or in two separate genera.
Eventually, it was recognized that bowheads and right whales were different, but there was still no strong consensus as to whether they shared a single genus or two. As recently as , Dale Rice, in his comprehensive and otherwise authoritative classification, Marine mammals of the world: Studies in the s finally provided clear evidence that the three living right whale species comprise a phylogenetic lineage, distinct from the bowhead, and that the bowhead and the right whales are rightly classified into two separate genera.
The relationship is shown in the cladogram below:. The earlier fossil record shows no related cetacean after Morenocetus , found in a South American deposit dating back 23 million years. An unknown species of right whale, the so-called "Swedenborg whale" which was proposed by Emanuel Swedenborg in the 18th century, was once thought to be a North Atlantic right whale by scientific consensus. Based on later DNA analysis those fossil bones claimed to be from "Swedenborg whales" were confirmed to be from bowhead whales.
The whale has a massive triangular skull , which it uses to break through the Arctic ice to breathe. The bowhead whale has paired blowholes, at the highest point of the head, which can spout a blow 6. Bowhead whales are comparable in size to the three species of right whales. According to whaling captain William Scoresby Jr.
He also spoke of one, caught near Spitsbergen around , that was allegedly nearly The longest reliably measured were a male of Analysis of hundreds of DNA samples from living whales and from baleen used in vessels, toys, and housing material has shown that Arctic bowhead whales have lost a significant portion of their genetic diversity in the past years.
Bowheads originally crossed ice-covered inlets and straits to exchange genes between Atlantic and Pacific populations. This conclusion was derived from analyzing maternal lineage using mitochondrial DNA. Whaling and climatic cooling during the Little Ice Age , from the 16th century to the 19th, is supposed to have reduced the whales' summer habitats, which explains the loss of genetic diversity.
A discovery has clarified the function of the bowhead's large palatal retial organ. The bulbous ridge of highly vascularized tissue, the corpus cavernosum maxillaris , extends along the centre of the hard plate, forming two large lobes at the rostral palate.
The tissue is histologically similar to that of the corpus cavernosum of the mammalian penis. During physical exertion, the whale must cool itself to prevent hyperthermia and ultimately brain damage. It is believed that this organ becomes engorged with blood, causing the whale to open its mouth to allow cold seawater to flow over the organ, thus cooling the blood. Bowhead whales are not social animals, typically travelling alone or in small pods of up to 6.
They are able to dive and remain submerged underwater for up to an hour. The time spent underwater in a single dive is usually limited to 9—18 minutes. During periods of feeding, the average swim speed is reduced to 1. The head of the bowhead whale comprises a third of its body length, creating an enormous feeding apparatus. The mouth has a large upturning lip on the lower jaw that helps to reinforce and hold the baleen plates within the mouth. This also prevents buckling or breakage of the plates from the pressure of the water passing through them as the whale advances.
To feed, water is filtered through the fine hairs of keratin of the baleen plates, trapping the prey inside near the tongue where it is then swallowed. Intense calls for communication and navigation are produced especially during migration season. During breeding season, bowheads make long, complex, variable songs for mating calls. Sexual activity occurs between pairs and in boisterous groups of several males and one or two females. Breeding season is observed from March through August; conception is believed to occur primarily in March when song activity is at its highest.
The gestation period is 13—14 months with females producing a calf once every three to four years. To survive in the cold water immediately after birth, calves are born with a thick layer of blubber. Within 30 minutes of birth, bowhead calves are able to swim on their own.
A newborn calf is typically 4—4. Bowhead whales are considered to be the longest-living mammals , living for over years. The whale was probably harpooned sometime between and , and its age at the time of death was estimated at between and years.
This discovery showed the longevity of the bowhead whale is much greater than originally thought. It was previously believed the more cells present in an organism, the greater the chances of mutations that cause age-related diseases and cancer. In , scientists from the US and UK were able to successfully map the whale's genome.
These two specific gene mutations linked to the bowhead whale's ability to live longer are the ERCC1 gene and the proliferating cell nuclear antigen PCNA gene. These mutations enable bowhead whales to better repair DNA damage, allowing for greater resistance to cancer.
The bowhead whale is the only baleen whale to spend its entire life in the Arctic and sub-Arctic waters. The group migrates northward in the spring, following openings in the ice, into the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. Historical range could have been broader and more southern than that of currently regarded as bowheads had been abundant among Labrador and Newfoundland Strait of Belle Isle , and northern Gulf of St.
Lawrence at least until 16th and 17th century although it is unclear this was whether or not due to colder climate of those periods. It is generally recognized that there are five stocks of Bowhead Whales. However, recent evidence suggests that the Hudson Bay and Foxe Basin stock, and the Baffin Bay and Davis Strait stock should be considered one stock based on genetics and movements of tagged whales.
The Western Arctic Bowhead population, also known as the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort population, has recovered since the commercial harvest of this stock ceased. This data suggests that the Western Arctic Bowhead stock may be at or near its pre-commercial whaling level.
Alaskan Natives continue to hunt small numbers of Bowhead Whales for subsistence purposes. The Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, an Alaska Native organization that manages the Bowhead subsistence harvest under a cooperative agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, sets the harvest quota for each whaling village.
The Alaskan villages that participate in the Bowhead subsistence harvest include: In March , Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans stated the previous estimates in the eastern Arctic had under-counted, with a new estimate of 14, animals range 4,—43, However, if climate change substantially shrinks sea ice, these whales could be threatened by increased shipping traffic. The status of other populations is less well known. There were about 1, off West Greenland in , while the Svalbard population may only number in the tens.
However, the numbers have been increasing in recent years. Distribution patterns of whales in this regions are largely affected by presences of killer whales and bowheads can disappear from normal ranges due to recent changes in killer whales' occurrences within the bay possibly because of changes in movements of ice floes by changing climate.
Mostly, distributions within Hudson Bay is restricted in northwestern part  along with Wager Bay ,  Repulse Bay ,  Southampton Island one of two main know summering areas ,   Frozen Strait , northern Foxe Basin, and north of Igloolik in summer,  and satellite tracking  indicates that some portions of the group within the bay do not venture further south than such as Whave Cove  and areas south of Coasts and Mansel Islands.
Northward migrating along western Foxe Basin to eastern side of the basin also occurs in spring seasons. Not much is known about the endangered Sea of Okhotsk population. To learn more about the population, these mammals have been regularly observed near the Shantar Islands , very close to the shore, such as at Ongachan Bay. According to Russian scientists, this total population likely does not exceed animals.
Thus, bowheads in the Sea of Okhotsk were once called "forgotten whales" by researchers. WWF welcomed the creation a nature sanctuary in the region . Possibly, vagrants from this population occasionally reach into Asian nations such as off Japan or Korean Peninsula although this record might or might not be of a right whale . Genetic studies suggest Okhotsk population share common ancestry with whales in Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Seas, and repeated mixings had occurred between whales in two seas.
Today, the number of sightings in elsewhere are very small,  but with increasing regularities  with whales having strong regional connections. Current status of population structure of this stock is unclear; whether they are remnant of the historic Svalbard group, re-colonized individuals from other stocks, or if a mixing of these two or more stocks had taken place. In , discoveries of the refuge along eastern Greenland where whaling ships could not reach due to ice floes  and largest numbers of whales 80— individuals ever sighted between Spitsbergen and Greenland  indicate that more whales than previously considered survived whaling periods, and flows from the other populations are possible.
During expeditions by a tour operator 'Arctic Kingdom', a large group of bowheads seemingly involved in courtship activities were discovered in very shallow bays in south of Qikiqtarjuaq in Moulting behaviours had never or seldom been documented for this species before.
This area is an important habitat for whales that were observed to be relatively active and to interact with humans positively, or to rest on sea floors. These whales belong to Davis Strait stock. Isabella Bay in Niginganiq National Wildlife Area is the first wildlife sanctuary in the world to be designed specially for bowhead whales. However, moultings have not been recorded in this area due to environmental factors. The principal predators of bowheads are humans.
The bowhead whale has been hunted for blubber , meat, oil , bones, and baleen. Like the right whale , it swims slowly, and floats after death, making it ideal for whaling.
Commercial bowhead whaling began in the 16th century when the Basques killed them as they migrated south through the Strait of Belle Isle in the fall and early winter. In , the first whaling expedition sailed to Spitsbergen. By mid-century, the population s there had practically been wiped out, forcing whalers to voyage into the "West Ice"—the pack ice off Greenland 's east coast.
By , they had reached the Davis Strait and, by the first quarter of the 19th century, Baffin Bay.
They were both still early in their training. A doctor talked them through how to insert a chest tube. Not long after, they had to do the procedure for another shooting victim. Now both women have completed all four sessions of health aide training and have reached the most advanced level.
The seven now on the job are: They play a vital role in a small village but the job carries high stress from treating the ill, the injured and the dying, including friends and family members. Meanwhile, the community that calls itself the walrus capital of the world also celebrated whaling last week, a hunting tradition that only came to the village in The neighboring village of Gambell has a long whaling tradition but the big hunts came more recently to Savoonga, which was established in as a center for reindeer herding, said Chester Noongwook, now The village of Gambell just landed its second bowhead of spring.
His grandfather wanted to catch a whale and so did his father, and it was his father who landed the first one, Noongwook said. The whole story was too long to tell, he said.
His hearing is fading and it had been a long day already. Noongwook's life has been rich. He served in the Korean War and was in the military more than 40 years, he said. In , he retired as the last dog sled mail carrier. A framed certificate and faded news feature decorate the wall of the tribal hall. During short winter days, planes would land in Gambell, and he would bring the mail by dog team home to Savoonga once a week over "60 cold and treacherous miles. As he spoke, some boys sat nearby, listening.
They said they love whaling camp and Native foods, especially muktuk with seasoned breading baked in the oven. He was wearing a hoodie with images of a whale and walrus, a reindeer and a halibut with a drummer at center. Among her many assignments, she spent three years based in Bethel as the newspaper's western Alaska correspondent. She left the ADN in Alaska Life We Alaskans. Arts and Entertainment TV Listings.
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Oct 23 Electric vehicles — is the U. Oct 19 Smoking rate among adults in the United States Oct Recent posts about Savoonga, Alaska on our local forum with over 2,, registered users. Savoonga is mentioned 20 times on our forum:. The village of Savoonga on St. Lawrence Island had no ice, weeks into October. Lisa Murkowski chaired the hearing in Savoonga , saying about 27 percent of households in Alaska's Bering Strait region are classified as overcrowded or severely overcrowded, KTVA-TV reported ketchikandailynews.
Human error blamed for fuel oil spill at Savoonga tank farm. Public high school in Savoonga: Education Gini index Inequality in education Here: Religion statistics for Savoonga city based on Nome Census Area data. Number of grocery stores: Number of convenience stores no gas: Number of convenience stores with gas: Number of full-service restaurants: Average overall health of teeth and gums: People feeling badly about themselves: People not drinking alcohol at all: Average hours sleeping at night: Average condition of hearing: Savoonga government finances - Expenditure in per resident: Savoonga government finances - Revenue in per resident: Charges - All Other: Savoonga government finances - Debt in per resident: Savoonga government finances - Cash and Securities in per resident: Strongest AM radio stations in Savoonga: TV broadcast stations around Savoonga:
Savoonga, Alaska detailed profile. The ratio of number of residents in Savoonga to the number of sex offenders is to 1. Median real estate property taxes. The Savoonga Day School in Alaska is perhaps one of the most Date Line. On a rocky shore .. dren and adults alike will not have to walk through the mud or. villages on the island, Gambell at Northwest Cape and Savoonga about 38 .. highly scarred neck skin of a mature male walrus may be 5 inches or more thick. .. Wildlife Service needs at an early date and provide for confirmation of.