Recently, I had the great honor of getting interviewed by my hometown radio station about a recent discovery not too many shades away from the one we reported on last year. In a recent paper of The Anatomical Record, Alex Werth and colleagues (Ford et al.) describe a new sensory organ in the mouths of baleen whales -- this time, in bowhead whales, who are the distant, slow-moving cousins of rorquals. Unlike the organ embedded in the chins of rorquals, this one in bowheads hangs from the midline of the roof of their mouth, and shares striking tissue similarities with the penis in good, regular terrestrial mammals like primates.
Carl Zimmer provides a funny and detailed account of their discovery over at National Geographic's Phenomena blog suite; it's also the source for the quote in the title (read into it what you will). Whales really are like mammals from space, and we know precious little about them. Check out Carl's article not only for the delicate humor, but also because it features art from the ever-talented and productive Carl Buell, and some choice quotes from my partner in all things rorqual, Jeremy Goldbogen. Also, Alex provides yet further evidence in the blog that fisherman's bib overalls are the height of whale dissection fashion:
I managed to resurrect enough long-dormant French (with the help of my brother) to pass Radio-Canada's interview. Unsurprisingly, Alex hid the fact that he is a loyal Boston Bruins fan -- a wise move, given the current standings. (Talk to you after Saturday, Alex). Listen more here.