Morphology and Development of Blue Whale Baleen: An Annotated Translation of Tycho Tullberg’s Classic 1883 Paper

Abstract: Herein we present an annotated translation of the classic paper by Tycho Tullberg on the structure and development of baleen in blue whales. The three blue whale fetuses on which this study was based were obtained from a whaling station in Norway during a time when blue whales were still abundant enough to support a whaling industry. The value of this text for the modern reader is that it provides a glimpse into the mechanisms of development of baleen in the largest rorqual whale, which is something that modern biologists are unlikely to be able to replicate for a long time. Tullberg’s careful morphology, histology, and developmental thinking provide a coherent account of how the elaborate baleen racks develop from simple epidermal and dermal origins. The figures, which we have reproduced here, are superb and provide a rare window into the morphology of blue whale baleen at three fetal stages. The histology is excellent for its time and provides insights into the various keratin tissue phases that make up the baleen plates and bristles as well as the enigmatic Zwischensubstanz that acts as a spacer and possible shock-absorber between plates.

Key Words: blue whale, Balaenoptera musculus, baleen, development, Tullberg, translation

Document Type: Research article

DOI: 10.1578/AM.35.2.2009.226

Page Numbers: 226-252

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