#11 Did Salem Inherit the Lips??

The calving ground is hopping with a number of juvenile whales and one of them has an interesting history. Catalog #3617, known as Salem, was born in 2006 to whale #1817, known as Silt. While most calves are weaned by the end of their first year of life, Salem stayed with Silt for at least 17 months through May - five months longer than most calves. Its first sighting on its own was in the harbor in Salem, Massachusetts- a very unlikely place for a right whale (or any whale for that matter) to be. Ironically, a team of right whale researchers had steamed out of Salem harbor that very morning looking for right whales offshore!

One of the distinctive features of Salem is that its lip callosity on the right side is so long that it connects with its chin callosity (see photo to the left). There are only a few right whales in the population that share this trait. In fact, it is so rare that I am willing to boldly guess who Salem's father is! Because the fathers have no long term association with the mother or with the calf after it is born, the only way we can determine paternity is with genetics.

I would bet that once the researchers at Trent University in Ontario Canada do the paternity analysis for Salem, we will discover that whale #1250, Herb, is its father. Herb was named after a man who had a big mustache that connected to his beard- just as Herb the whale's right lip callosity connects with his chin callosity.

We don't know much about the inheritance of callosity patterns, but the similarity between Salem and Herb makes me a believer that Salem got its lips from Herb.

Photo Credits: New England Aquarium, Salem (top) in 2007 by Philip Hamilton, and Herb (bottom) in 2003.



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