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THE NORTH ATLANTIC RIGHT WHALE, BALÆNA GLACIALIS BONNATERRE.
Since the separation of the Right whale of the temperate eastern Atlantic from the Arctic Right whale by Eschricht, the validity of the former species bas been universally accepted, though opinions have differed as to whether its American counterpart is identical with it. The European species, known as the Nordcaper or Sarde, was named Balaena glacialis by Bonnaterre (9, 3) and Balana biscayensis by Eschricht (1860). The latter name was not accompanied by a description. Bonnaterre's diagnosis does not include a reference to a type specimen. Unless there is more than one species on the European coasts, we may, therefore, draw characters from whatever specimens have been described. As would naturally be expected, the later accounts are generally fuller and more accurate than the earlier ones, but even the fullest descriptions are to a certain extent fragmenta ry and unsystematic and contain contradictory statements and measurements. To thread one's way through the maze requires a large amount of patience and consumes a great deal of time, and the results obtained are not entirely satisfactory.
My study of the literature of the European Right whale, and of American specimens, leads me to believe that there is a greater amount of individual variation as regards proportions in the genus Balona than in Balanoptera, and that we may not look for the same conformity in this respect in the former as in the latter. It is possible, of course, that there may be several species of Balana on the European coasts and an equal number on the Atlantic coasts of North America, but there appears to be no real foundation for such an opinion. To a certain extent the variations in proportions observable among specimens hitherto described are, no doubt, due to differences in age and to inaccurate measurements. It will be found that in general appearance, color, form of parts, etc., the European specimens agree well together.
The European specimens which have been described are few indeed. The most celebrated is that captured at San Sebastian, Spain, in 1854. It was a young individual 24 ft. 94 in. long. It enabled Eschricht to prove his assumption that the Right whale of the temperate eastern Atlantic was a different species from the Arctic Right whale. He intended to publish a detailed account of it, but died before the work was accomplished (Fischer, 44, 19). Dr. Monedero in San Sebastian published a lithographic figure of this specimen, with measurements which have been copied by Fischer (44, 19), Gasco (48, 587), etc. This figure has been highly
praised, and often copied, but it hardly seems possible that the remarkably short head can be correct. The skeleton was very fully described by Gasco in 1879 (48).
Fischer, in 1881, reprinted the description and measurements (44, 10) published in 1682 by Segnette of a specimen stranded on Ré Id., France, in 1680.
In 1877, a specimen was stranded at Taranto, Italy, of which descriptions and figures were published by Capellini in 1877 (13) and by Gasco in 1878 (47). It is an unfortunate circumstance that Gasco's measurements do not agree with Capel. lini's; nor do they agree with the figures in the plates accompanying his memoir, nor do the figures agree with each other.
In 1889 Graells (52) published measurements and figures of a specimen captured at Guetaria, Spain, in 1878, and preserved in the museum of the Institute of Secondary Instruction at San Sebastian. In the same memoir are included additional facts regarding this specimen by
> Candido Rios y Rial (52, 63-67, sep.). In 1893, Prof. Guldberg published a very valuable article entitled Zur Kennt niss des Nordkapers (59), containing measurements of specimens taken at Iceland, together with three photographic figures of the exterior, and figures of the pelvic bones and sternum.'
The foregoing memoirs contain practically all the data on the Nordcaper available for use in comparing European with American specimens.
The total length of the various recorded specimens of the European Nordcaper is as follows:
'These figures on a larger scale were also published by Buchet in 1895 in Mem. Soc. Zool., France, 8, 1895, 229-231, pls. 6–8. They bear here the legend“ Phot. de M. Berg "-In Guldberg's paper the legend is "Guldberg phot."
Skeleton. Van Beneden cites this as 48 ft. long, which must be an error.
F.= French measure; R.= Rheinland; S.= Spanish. I am not positive as to the Rheinland. * In a straight line. • Fischer states that this specimen was young, but there is no evidence that such was the case.
It will be observed from the table that the largest European specimen is the Iceland one cited by Guldberg, which was 51' 8" long in a straight line. Guldberg's statement regarding it is as follows: “Captain Berg told me that the largest speci. men captured by him measured 50 feet [Rheinland ?] long (in a straight line) and 46 feet in maximum girth” (59, 15)."
The next largest was that recorded by Segnette as stranded on the island of Ré, France, in 1680. It was a female and its length was 50 ft. 7 in. Fischer asserts that this individual was young (44, 16), but there is no evidence that this was
He was influenced by the measurements given by Rondelet and Paré for the whale of the Basques. According to these early zoologists, this whale reached a length of 36 cubits (coudées), or as Fischer has reckoned it, 23.4 m., or 76 ft. 9 in. There is no probability that the Nordcaper ever reached such dimensions.
The American specimens hitherto recorded present the following lengths :
A comparison of the foregoing measurements of total length with those previously given for the European specimens shows that there is no considerable difference in size in individuals from the two sides of the Atlantic.
The largest American specimen, as above indicated, was 53 ft. long. The largest European specimen (Iceland) was 51 ft. 8 in. The younger specimens show a parallel gradation in size. It may be stated, therefore, that European and American specimens cannot be differentiated by size.
The exterior measurements recorded by those who have had an opportunity to examine the Atlantic Right whale in a fresh condition are so meagre and so little conformable that they give but scant assistance in determining the questions at
"Guldberg's own measurements appear to be in Rheinland feet (12 in. Rheinl. = 12.357 Eng lish), but he cited one measurement from Capt. Berg in English feet, which may be the kind intended here, in which case the Ré Island specimen would be the longest one.
* See Holder (36, 112, 120).
The length of the skeleton as mounted is probably too great, on account of the exaggeration of the caudal intervertebral spaces.
* Type of Balana cisarctica Cope.
issue. Furthermore, the few measurements available for comparison show large discrepancies, as will be found upon examination of the following table :
1.2 2.8 5.0
Tip of snout to eye...
orbit, axially... Ear above horizon of eye..
from vertical axis of eye..
of lower jaw at middle... Circumference at middle of body.
posterior third... Longest whalebone..
French measure. ? Norwegian measure.
• To anterior insertion (see Gasco, pl. 9, fig. 2). * Along inner curve.
The first point that arrests one's attention in comparing these measurements is that the distance from the tip of the snout to the eye in the San Sebastian (Spain) whale is very short. This has been insisted on in all the accounts of this whale and appears in Monedero's drawing, copied by Fischer (44, 18, fig. 1), Van Beneden and Gervais, and others. The appearance of the head in the figure is so peculiar as to lead one to think this young specimen was either abnormal, or that the drawing was inaccurate. Nothing is to be seen of this peculiarity in Guldberg's photographic figures of older individuals. The Ré Island (France), Egg Harbor (New Jersey), and Cape Lookout (North Carolina) specimens show a reasonable agreement as regards this measurement.
In the length and breadth of the pectoral limb the European and American specimens show a very close agreement, amounting to identity of proportions.
In the measurement of the flukes, on the contrary, the European specimens neither agree with each other nor with the American specimens, nor do the latter agree among themselves.
themselves. In all species of whales the expansion of the flukes appears subject to a considerable amount of individual variation, but this would not account for the marked discrepancies observable in the foregoing table. As regards the Taranto (Italy) whale, it would appear that the measurement of the flukes from tip to tip is incorrect, because while this is much below that of most of the other specimens, the measurement of the length of one of the lobes of the flukes is only a trifle less than that of the American specimen having the widest spread flukes; in other words, the length of one lobe of the flukes is recorded as two thirds the distance from tip to tip, which is highly improbable.
The measurement for the Charleston (South Carolina) whale is still smaller, 27.3% of the total length, while the Egg Harbor (New Jersey) wbale bas the maximum proportion of 35.4%. There appears to be no way in which to reconcile these differences.
The length of the whalebone in the European and American specimens differ's considerably. In the Taranto whale it was but 6.6% of the total length of the whale, and in Guldberg's Iceland specimen of 1889, 7.1%. In the Charleston wbale, which was 3 feet shorter than the last mentioned, the whalebone was 10.3 . The various absolute measurements are as follows: